WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Trevor Williams, in the kindest way of putting this, got his work in today against the Marlins.
The Nationals right-hander reached the fifth inning and raised his pitch count to 92, tops of anyone on the staff so far this spring to put himself in excellent position for the start of the regular season in 12 days.
The results of those 92 pitches weren’t exactly anything to crow about. Williams was roughed up for seven runs on 10 hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings during a 7-0 loss to Miami. It wasn’t pretty.
But in the time-honored tradition of playing up positive performances in spring training while downplaying negative performances, Williams and manager Davey Martinez attempted to focus on the positive elements of today’s start as opposed to the more glaring problem areas.
“The positive today is that we were able to throw over 90 pitches, get that bulk and go out there for the fifth inning after having a couple long innings,” Williams said. “Being able to get that and get over 90 pitches was big for us today. Five days from today, we’re going to try to shoot for that 100-mark, 105-mark. And from there, we kind of cruise into the season.”
Williams can only hope this kind of ragged March start doesn’t follow him into April.
The 30-year-old didn’t even give anyone a chance to get excited about this start, serving up a home run to Jon Berti on his second pitch of the game. Then came a laborious top of the second in which five Miami batters reached base while he threw 33 pitches. The top of the third saw three batters mash the ball to deep left field, with Alex Call making one lunging catch but unsuccessfully crashing into the wall in vain the other two times. The top of the fourth did feature three quick outs on 10 pitches. But the top of the fifth including four straight batters reaching base, capped by Austin Allen’s two-run double down the right field line.
By the time he walked off the mound one batter later, Williams had surrendered seven runs.
“Results are always good, but at this point it’s: ‘Am I executing the right pitches in the right spots? Am I able to sequence correctly what I want to do?’” he said. “It’s always an interesting matchup, too, this late in spring training with division rivals, because you don’t want to tip your hand too much. But at this point, we’re looking to execute pitches. And overall, we were able to execute some pitches today.”
Read between the lines, and Williams seemed to be suggesting he approached this start against the Marlins differently than he would in the regular season. Would it be fair to say he’d throw different pitches in those situations if it was April 18 at Nationals Park instead of March 18 at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches?
“There’s stuff I needed to work on, execution of certain pitches,” he said. “We could always second-guess which pitch calls we select, but we don’t need to be showing guys our hand necessarily this early.”
Williams, of course, is assured a spot in the Nats rotation. He’s been lined up to start the fourth game of the season for several weeks now, and he has the security of a two-year contract. That perhaps affords him some leeway to pay less attention to spring training results than a younger pitcher still trying to establish himself and (in some cases) win a spot on the Opening Day roster.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “Veteran guys know what they’re going through. For him, he wanted to work on some things. For a young guy, they’re trying to attack the strike zone and get outs. This one was a little different for me today.”
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