Williams looking to start where he left off

March 8th, 2019

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It’s no surprise that Trevor Williams said on Friday that he has set out “to continue where I left off” last season. He finished the year on an incredible run, putting together a 1.29 ERA as the Pirates won eight of his last 13 starts. But Williams isn’t exactly content, either.

The right-hander gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits with two walks, while striking out three in his Grapefruit League debut against the Blue Jays on Friday, an 11-0 loss at LECOM Park. The results are mostly immaterial at this point of the spring for a pitcher like Williams, who has a guaranteed spot in the rotation, especially in his first outing with opponents wearing a different uniform.

More interesting was Williams’ pitch usage. Last season, he leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball (50.6 percent), sinker (18.8), changeup (15.4) and slider (15.1). According to Statcast, he threw only six curveballs all year. During his simulated games at Pirate City earlier this spring, he threw 10 or 15 curveballs per outing. On Friday, he threw about as many as he did all of last season.

“For me to become a next-level pitcher, I think I needed a second breaking ball,” Williams said. “It’s a pitch that I only need to throw a few times a game, and hopefully it equates to getting an extra out here or there.

“It’s a pitch where if I throw the pitch, I know it’s going to be an out or I know it’s going to be a strike. I think that’ll take me to the next level as a pitcher. We’re still working on it. … It was something that looked good and felt good, and something that I look forward to continuing throughout the spring.”

Williams does not overpower hitters with velocity or hard-breaking stuff, but he prides himself on premium fastball location. He hopes that adding a slower breaking ball will enhance the rest of his arsenal.

“Something new, something different,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s another read that the hitter’s got to be aware of.”

Williams threw 72 pitches on Friday, as he worked into the fourth inning without recording an out. Blue Jays prospect Anthony Alford did most of the damage with a pair of solo homers, then three more runs scored in the fourth after Williams exited the game.

“I let too many hitters get away from me,” he said. “It’s something that I need to improve on my next outing in five days and go from there.”

Around the horn
Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, allowed four runs on four hits with one walk over two innings on Friday at LECOM Park. He pitched a scoreless sixth inning and recorded his first strikeout of the spring, but he has now allowed 10 runs in four innings this spring.

“This is all learning," Hurdle said. "This is all experience. It’s all opportunity; what he does with it. He’s realized now that up here, as you continue to move up, the mistakes that you do make have a tendency to get hit harder and further. If anything else, he’s going to walk out [of] here with a little bit of an edge going back down and getting to work.”

• The Bucs' other split squad lost to the Blue Jays, 5-2, at Dunedin Stadium. Right-hander Rookie Davis, who is competing for the fifth spot in Pittsburgh’s rotation, allowed four runs on four hits with four walks in two innings. Reliever Michael Feliz struck out two as he allowed one run in two innings, while prospect J.T. Brubaker pitched two scoreless frames.

• Shortstop prospect Oneil Cruz, who is ranked No. 4 by MLB Pipeline, was called up from Minor League camp, and he hit a homer to right-center field in the seventh inning at Dunedin Stadium.

• Right-hander Joe Musgrove, who has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game this spring, will throw in a simulated game on Saturday. He is scheduled to make his official Spring Training debut against the Rays on March 15 at LECOM Park.

Pre-arb players sign
On Friday, the Pirates officially agreed to terms with all of the pre-arbitration eligible players on contracts for the 2019 season.

That group includes starters Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Musgrove, first baseman Josh Bell, second baseman Adam Frazier, shortstop Erik Gonzalez and catcher Elias Diaz -- all of whom will be arb-eligible for the first time next offseason. They will earn the league minimum of $555,000 or slightly more, based on their previous performance and Major League service time.

The process is more or less a formality, as all of those players are under club control. If they did not agree to terms, the Bucs could have simply renewed their contracts for this season.

Up next
Right-hander Clay Holmes will start for the Pirates as they host the Twins on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET at LECOM Park. Three of their high-leverage bullpen arms -- closer Felipe Vazquez, setup man Keone Kela and right-hander Richard Rodriguez -- are also scheduled to pitch, as is lefty Tyler Lyons. The game will air on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and MLB.TV.