Williams named to 2023 MLB All-Star Game roster

July 2nd, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- keeps a folder on his phone of screenshotted social media messages. They tell him he’s in over his head. That he’s no Josh Hader. That he’s no good. They are messages sent in frustration after the rare instances Williams has a poor ninth inning that costs the Brewers a ballgame. 

Once in a while, Williams browses that folder on his phone.

“If I don’t feel like going through all my stuff today, going through my prep work,” Williams explained. “Then I go and look at that and go, ‘OK, it’s time to go to work.’” 

That work continued to pay off on Sunday, when Brewers manager Craig Counsell gathered the team before its series finale at PNC Park and informed them that Williams had earned a spot on the National League All-Star team.

It’s his second straight All-Star selection, though last year Williams was a last-minute addition to the NL roster as a replacement. This year, he’s on the squad from the start as a bona fide closer, having ascended to that role for Milwaukee following Hader’s trade to San Diego last summer.

As success keeps coming, Williams is maintaining his competitive edge. Hence, the folder full of screenshots from haters.

“I think that’s huge for me,” Williams said. “My goal is to be perfect every time out. I don’t succeed in that a lot of that time, but that’s what keeps me going into the next one, and the next one. Then you finally have that good one, but you don’t forget how hard you had to work before that, just to have that one perfect inning.”

The transition from Hader to Williams couldn’t have gone more smoothly. From last year’s Trade Deadline through Sunday morning, he was 23-for-28 in save opportunities with a 1.99 ERA and a .139 opponents’ average, a virtual tie with Reds closer (and fellow 2023 All-Star) Alexis Díaz for best in baseball for pitchers who have logged at least 40 innings over that span. 

This year, Williams is 17-for-18 in saves with a 1.52 ERA after going three-up, three-down in Sunday’s 6-3, series-clinching win in Pittsburgh. Of his first 30 appearances, 28 have been scoreless, and four of the five runs he’d allowed so far this season came in one game -- a blown save on June 13 at Minnesota in which Williams surrendered four runs without recording an out. 

Take away that outing, and Williams’ ERA in his other 29 appearances to start the year was 0.30.

“I’m proud of how I’ve handled everything, and continued to do what I’ve always done up to this point,” Williams said. 

In presenting the news to the team, Counsell rattled off a list of other Brewers closers to represent the club at the All-Star Game. It’s a long list, from Rollie Fingers in 1981-82 to Dan Plesac to Bob Wickman, Danny Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Francisco Cordero, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Rodríguez, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress to Hader, who made four straight All-Star teams for Milwaukee from 2018-21, a record for a Brewers reliever. (Hader is an All-Star again this season for San Diego.)

Every season but one since 2014, at least one Brewers reliever has been an All-Star.

“It’s been quite a run for this organization,” Counsell said. “Trevor Hoffman was the first guy that I was fortunate to play with, and there’s been excellence in that position. We’re very lucky. And I think Devin belongs up there with those names. 

“Now, he’s got a long way to go in his career, but that’s how his career has started. He’s pitching at the level those guys pitched at in their career.”

Williams is holding out hope that he’ll have company in Seattle for the Midsummer Classic. Every year, players are added to All-Star Game rosters due to injury, or because a selection opts not to attend. Christian Yelich is the Brewers’ leading candidate for a late nod this year.

The fact Williams is on the All-Star team from the start this season means he has time to prepare. Williams said he is already working with his preferred tailor on an eye-opening outfit for the All-Star red carpet show.

“[Last year] it was a quick 24-hour process,” he said. “The guy that made my suit did it in literally 24 hours. He'll have a little bit more time this year. I got some ideas. He sent some swatches over to me. I haven't locked down anything, though.

“In situations like this, awards or anything along these lines, you have to give yourself a little gift, something like that. That makes it all worth it.”