Williams 'outstanding' in Phillies win

Posted: August 26, 2014

IN THE SPAN of exactly a month, Jerome Williams was released from one losing team and designated for assignment by another, so not much was expected when the Phillies claimed the righthander off waivers 2 weeks ago yesterday.

But ever since joining the club, Williams has showcased stuff that could certainly find a home in the back end of Philadelphia's 2015 rotation.

Williams, a jovial 32-year-old journeyman from Hawaii, threw eight innings of one-run baseball yesterday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park to help the last-place Phillies (58-72) secure their first back-to-back series wins for the first time in almost 4 months. The 6-3, 240-pound veteran mixed his fastballs and blended his speeds in a 7-1 win over the Cardinals that took a brisk 2 hours, 33 minutes.

"Williams was outstanding," was how manager Ryne Sandberg began his post-game press conference.

Williams threw an efficient 110 pitches (73 for strikes) to get through the eight innings, at which point Justin De Fratus entered to take care of the ninth. St. Louis (70-59), battling for another NL Central title, mustered only five hits off Williams (2-0), who struck out five, walked three and provided the bullpen a much-needed break after Saturday's 12-inning defeat.

In his three starts with the Phillies, Williams has allowed just four earned runs in 20 1/3 innings. Yesterday was his first outing to last eight innings since May 21, 2013, when he was a member of the Angels rotation. A long reliever with the Astros to start this season, he made only two starts with the Rangers before they cast him and his 9.90 ERA aside.

"My stuff was there. It's just I wasn't using it right," said Williams, who was 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA in 26 appearances for the Astros. "I think I'm using it right now. [I'm] using every pitch and every part of the zone. Just mixing speeds instead of being a one-dimensional pitcher. I'm using every pitch in every count."

Seems like a change of scenery has helped?

"I think the change of leagues," Williams contended. "I've been in the American League for a long time and coming over to the National League I think I can contribute in different ways. I'm just happy that I'm actually doing the job that I've been doing."

Williams' major league career began in 2003, when he was 21, and before this season he had played for the Giants, Cubs, Nationals and Angels. He spent 2008-11 out of the majors, so his last stint in the National League came in 2007 with Washington.

"Jerome has been very good for three outings in a row now," Sandberg said. "He's a veteran guy. He can do a lot of things well right now. He's making a good showing for himself. He could be [of help next season]. We'll have some time to watch. He's had three outstanding games for us."

The move from the AL to the NL also gave Williams the opportunity to drive in his first run since his rookie season in 2003, the same year he made his major league debut at Veterans Stadium, making him one of only 19 active pitchers to pitch at both the Vet and Citizens Bank Park. Yesterday's RBI came on a safety squeeze up the first-base line that scored Domonic Brown.

It's clear Williams also brings with him a good sense of humor. When a reporter mentioned it was his first RBI in 11 years, he said in jest, "Why you gotta bring that up?"

Wil Nieves, who caught yesterday, has known Williams since 2008, when they were teammates in Puerto Rico for winter ball, and said he joked with Williams that the pitcher has been on almost as many teams this season as the 36-year-old Nieves has in his entire career.

The Phillies, for the record, are Nieves' seventh team.

"He likes to have fun, even when he's on the mound, just [telling] jokes. And I'm the same way," Nieves said. "When he went to cover first base, I'm like, 'I'm going to give you a little bit of time because I know you're fat and old.' And he just started laughing. [He's] just the kind of guy that you can do that with, and have fun."

Nieves said after watching Williams' last three starts it's difficult to see why the pitcher has bounced around so much. Since the last time he caught him for the Indios de Mayaguez more than a half-decade ago, Nieves said Williams has added a cutter to advance his repertoire.

"What he did today was awesome," Nieves said. "He's fun to catch. It's been a while. It was fun doing it again."

Thirty-two games remain, so Williams could theoretically get six more starts before season's end. With the Phillies rotation for next season far from set - Cole Hamels is the only lock, considering Cliff Lee's injury and that A.J. Burnett may retire - the next 5 weeks certainly aren't void of meaning for guys like Williams and rookie David Buchanan.

Williams insisted he hasn't thought that far ahead.

"I'm not thinking about the offseason. Not yet," Williams said. "I'm not really worried about anything like that. All I'm worried about right now is I'm done with this game. Move on to the next one and try to do my best there. However it plays out, [it] plays out.

"I've been in this game and I've been through a lot of stuff in my career and I know what happens. So if I just force the issue and keep on doing what I've been doing, who knows what's going to happen?"

On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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