"I didn't really know going into this offseason what I was going to do, especially after appearing at Miller Park in the last week of the year," he said. "Maybe that would lead to something. Who knows?
"But what I didn't want to do was not have a chance to play again when I am still getting outs."
That fact was hidden within the numbers, under a 5.13 ERA inflated by the terrible pitching conditions at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Dillard struck out 10.1 batters per nine innings and had his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since a 24-game stint in the Majors with Milwaukee in 2011. His last fastball in the Majors in '12 was 85 mph; his final pitch of '16 was 92 mph. And there were other metrics in Dillard's favor, which he Tweeted and texted to scouts and team officials around baseball in an effort to land a job.
There were conversations with several clubs, Dillard said. When the Brewers offered the chance to come back, he took it.
He has pitched in Milwaukee's system off and on since 2003, the year after the Brewers made Dillard a 34th-round Draft pick. He made it to the Majors in '08 and '09, then again in '11 and '12 after dropping arm angle to be a sidearm reliever. In all, Dillard has pitched in 527 professional games, including 259 at the Triple-A level.
His sense of humor has long been well known to Dillard's teammates, but it reached a wider audience in 2016 when he began producing humorous videos to his social media accounts under the banner of "MiLB Network." Many were quick-fire questions and answers with teammates, a la the "man on the street" interviews on the Tonight Show.
"I wasn't going to make anyone look dumb -- well, actually, I'll make everyone look dumb," Dillard said. "But I wasn't going to do anything controversial, nothing political. I just wanted to have fun with it. The people who understood that, and if you look at those videos, almost everyone on the team was in at least one of them.
"If this leads to something, great. I can't play baseball forever, at least I don't think I can. I don't know what I'm learning toward post-baseball, but I do know I want to be around the game, in whatever facet that is."
Winner of Minor League video of the year:
But make no mistake: While he is pitching, he is serious about trying to make it back to the Majors.
"Maybe I just got better," Dillard said, and he was only half-joking. "I mean, that's what I've been trying to do for years. I feel like I'm honing my skills, and for the first time, I have weapons. Not just an iffy slider and a 'sometimes' changeup. I go out there with tools to get outs.
"I hate to think that at 33 I figured something out, but I don't know. Maybe that's what's happened."