NEW YORK -- During the final days of Spring Training, the Pirates assigned Trevor Williams to the bullpen, but they emphasized his standing in the rotation. He was their sixth starter. If a spot opened, he would be the next man up.Williams continued to prove himself worthy of a starting
NEW YORK -- During the final days of Spring Training, the Pirates assigned Trevor Williams to the bullpen, but they emphasized his standing in the rotation. He was their sixth starter. If a spot opened, he would be the next man up.
Williams continued to prove himself worthy of a starting job -- perhaps even after Jameson Taillon rejoins the rotation -- by throwing seven strong innings, a career high, in the Pirates' 11-1 win over the Mets on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. Williams allowed only one run on 95 pitches, his second straight quality start.
Taillon is set to make another Minor League rehab start in Triple-A on Wednesday and may be bound for Pittsburgh soon, following May 8 surgery for testicular cancer. Williams made his first start in Taillon's place that night, giving up eight runs (six earned) in three innings at Dodger Stadium. Since then, Williams has posted a 2.83 ERA in five starts and seemingly improved each time out.
Manager Clint Hurdle wasn't ready to tip his hand about the Pirates' future plans, and Williams isn't getting caught up in the idea of a rotation competition.
"It's out of my hands. I'm just glad I still have an opportunity to pitch at the big league level," Williams said. "Whenever the ball's in my hands in whatever situation, I'm going to do my best and give the team the best of my ability that day to help the team win."
Williams' recent success stands out alongside the struggles of young starters Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl. Williams may lack Glasnow's strikeout stuff or Kuhl's Minor League pedigree, but he is getting outs and preventing runs by any means necessary.
Williams' efficiency stood out in his last start against the D-backs, as he needed only 67 pitches to get through six innings. He found the Mets' lineup to be more patient, but when the Pirates needed a ground ball, Williams was able to get it.
With runners on second and third in the second inning, Williams traded two outs for one run with his first of three double plays. He started another one to end the third inning, getting Neil Walker to beat down a low sinker, and Lucas Duda's double-play grounder negated a leadoff single by Jay Bruce in a seven-pitch sixth inning.
"I think that's part of what you see in him, that pitchability factor. He is confident out there that the next pitch can get him out of some trouble," Hurdle said. "It was another push forward. … It was a really solid effort from him."
The key to his success with runners on, Williams said, was not overdoing it. He didn't try to add anything to his sinker or offspeed offerings, a counterintuitive tendency that usually flattens out pitches. He simply trusted what catcher Francisco Cervelli called.
"He knows what he has to do. He knows how to stay within himself," third baseman David Freese said. "He just does a good job for us."
Williams said he likes pitching with a "sense of urgency," which he has done the past month. Has it been enough to keep him in the rotation beyond this weekend?
"He's done what he's been asked to do," Hurdle said. "Everything gets evaluated every time a guy touches the ball and goes out there. So we'll see how it plays out."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.