Newly acquired Williams homers in first AB

March 30th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It didn’t take long for newly acquired utility man Luke Williams to make a good impression on the Giants.

Williams, who was acquired from the Phillies on Sunday, started at third base and blasted a two-run homer in the first at-bat of his Giants debut in a 9-5 win over the Royals on Wednesday afternoon at Surprise Stadium. Williams’ shot came off Kansas City right-hander Carlos Hernández and cleared the Royals’ bullpen in left-center field, jump-starting a six-run second inning.

The 25-year-old Williams went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored, and he played four innings at third base before being replaced by Jason Vosler.

It’s been a roller-coaster week for Williams, who flew across the country on Sunday after being traded before reporting to Giants camp the following morning. He arrived at Scottsdale Stadium toting his expansive collection of gloves, showcasing the versatility that made him so attractive to San Francisco.

“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” Williams told reporters earlier this week. “The Phillies are kind of all I’ve known, so the initial feeling was sad. But I had some time to reflect, and I’m really excited for the opportunity here.”

A right-handed hitter, Williams played every position but pitcher and catcher after debuting for the Phillies in 2021, when he batted .245/.315/.316 over 58 games and blasted a walk-off home run in his first Major League start against the Braves last June.

Williams said Venezuelan infielder Arquimedes Gamboa, a former Phillies farmhand who is also in Giants camp as a non-roster invitee, nicknamed him “Siete Guantes” or “Seven Gloves” due to his ability to bounce around the field.

“His strength is his versatility,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He can move around the diamond, and that’s super attractive to our organization.”

While he’s comfortable playing at nearly every spot, Williams feels his best position is the hot corner, as he was originally drafted as a third baseman in the third round of the 2015 Draft out of Dana Hills High School in Orange County, Calif. His experience at third could prove valuable as the Giants attempt to weather the loss of veteran Evan Longoria, who is slated to miss up to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his right index finger on Tuesday.

The Giants are expecting Wilmer Flores to get the majority of starts at third in Longoria’s absence, but Williams could end up factoring into that mix as well. Unlike fellow utility players Thairo Estrada and Mauricio Dubón, Williams can be optioned, so he’ll be able to toggle between the Majors and Minors throughout the regular season.

Quick hits

• Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani was charged with one run on six hits over 4 2/3 innings in his second Cactus League start on Wednesday. DeSclafani, 31, opened his outing with four scoreless innings before surrendering a one-out double to Nicky Lopez in the bottom of the fifth. He coaxed a flyout from Whit Merrifield before giving way to submariner Tyler Rogers, who allowed the inherited runner to score on an Edward Olivares fly ball that center fielder Austin Slater lost in the sun and was ruled a double.

• Rogers, who returned to the mound for the first time since taking a comebacker off his right shin last week, gave up two runs (one earned) over one-third of an inning. He has yielded five runs (three earned) over 1 1/3 innings in three appearances, causing his Cactus League ERA to spike to 20.25.

• Non-roster invitee Alex Blandino also homered against the Royals, slugging a solo shot to center field off Hernández in the second. Blandino, 29, made his first start of the spring at first base and finished 1-for-4 to move his Cactus League batting average to .412 (7-for-17) with two homers over six games.