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Notes: Williams' delivery; baserunning a priority

@adamdberry
February 16, 2020

BRADENTON, Fla. -- One of Trevor Williams’ goals heading into the winter was to nail down a more repeatable delivery, something he searched for throughout the final four months of last season. So far, so good. Without elite velocity, Williams has found a way to succeed with a well-executed approach

BRADENTON, Fla. -- One of Trevor Williams’ goals heading into the winter was to nail down a more repeatable delivery, something he searched for throughout the final four months of last season.

So far, so good.

Without elite velocity, Williams has found a way to succeed with a well-executed approach and precise location -- but the ability to command pitches is typically dependent upon a repeatable delivery, and Williams lost that at some point during his return from the injured list last season.

“It was one of those [things] that you don’t realize you’re overcompensating for it until you watch the video, then you go, ‘Why have I been inconsistent with a certain pitch? Why is my body not getting to the spot it needs to be?’” Williams said. “Everything feels good. You just develop bad habits in the rehab process because you’re so focused on the side.”

Williams reported to Spring Training a year ago on the heels of a borderline-historic second-half run, a showcase of smart game-planning and pinpoint command in which he produced a 1.29 ERA in 13 starts. He carried that success through the first seven weeks of last season, posting a 3.33 ERA in his first nine starts.

Then Williams sustained what the team described as a “right side strain” during his May 16 outing in San Diego. He returned to the mound on June 19, but he wasn’t the same pitcher after that even if he was healthy enough to take the mound. The right-hander recorded a 7.12 ERA in his next 15 starts, allowing opponents to slash .316/.371/.595 against him.

Late last season, bullpen coach Justin Meccage identified one of those bad habits Williams mentioned: His left leg was swinging out too far when he lifted it at the start of his delivery. That might seem like an incredibly minor detail, but it affected where his foot landed, which affected how he turned toward the plate, which affected his arm slot, which affected his command, which ultimately affected his results.

“It’s little things that make a big difference,” Williams said. “It’s a small movement that makes everything simplified and together.”

After setting out to correct that flaw, Williams said his delivery has felt “really good” and “more repeatable” during bullpen sessions at the start of Spring Training. After working with Williams during the offseason, new pitching coach Oscar Marin has also been pleased with how Williams’ delivery looks.

“A lot of it was the bottom-half part of his delivery, and that’s something he attacked over the offseason pretty well,” Marin said. “When I showed up and we started working with each other in Arizona, it was more looking at what he did and seeing that nice adjustment that he did make and making sure, for myself, [that he is] now maintaining it.”

Around the horn

• Pitchers and catchers worked out on Sunday morning at Pirate City, a relatively light day of activity before the full squad takes the field together for the first time on Monday morning. Position players stayed inside on Sunday, for the most part, as they took their pre-camp physical examinations.

“I think we’ve gotten through pitcher-and-catcher camp, knock on wood, healthy,” manager Derek Shelton said. “So to get everybody out on the field for the first time, we’re ready for that.”

• Shelton said he hasn’t put much thought into the Pirates’ lineup construction yet. He does appreciate the flexibility that Adam Frazier presents, however, as the second baseman has started at least four games in every spot of the order except fourth.

“He can hit anywhere in the lineup and functionally hit anywhere in the lineup,” Shelton said. “So to say he’s going to hit wherever, no. But when you have a guy who’s extremely versatile like that, it makes you smile because you know you can be a little more flexible.”

• Shelton has previously said the Pirates will be an “aggressive” team on the bases this year, and he reiterated on Sunday that baserunning “will be a point of emphasis” for the entire team. The amount of base-stealing they encourage, however, will be dependent upon who’s in the lineup.

“If you have eight guys who are going to stand and bang, you’re probably not going to steal a lot of bases,” Shelton said. “If we get game situationally in the right place, then we may move them.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.