Williamson feels ready for Show after up-and-down 2022

February 21st, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One year after he was a centerpiece acquisition around the beginning of the Reds' rebuilding phase, left-handed pitching prospect has a chance to make the big league rotation.

Williamson, who turns 25 on April 2, was among four players who came to the organization in the March 14, 2022, trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Mariners. He was Seattle's second-round pick in 2019 out of Texas Christian University, where he was a teammate and roommate of Reds lefty starter Nick Lodolo.

In 27 starts at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville in 2022, Williamson was 6-7 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. His walk rate jumped to 5.6 per nine innings from 3.0 in 2021 and his strikeout rate sank from 14.0 to 9.0 per nine innings. The Fairmont, Minn., native finished as Cincinnati's No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Williamson, who will start Saturday's Cactus League opener vs. the Guardians, recently talked with MLB.com.

MLB.com: Last year, you had to adjust to a new organization after the trade. What was it like learning the Reds way after the Mariners way?

Williamson: At first, it was tough because they do things a little different. Once I accepted it and bought in and really dove into the Reds way, it started clicking a little more for me and was easy. I would say Seattle is a little more analytical, for sure. Seattle is more specific on pitches and the Reds are more specific on the pitcher. I know that sounds the same but it's different. It's more about pitching than how good your slider is.

MLB.com: What did you take from some ups and downs last season?

Williamson: It was certainly the hardest year I've had. I think it's good. I never had a season where if I had a bad game, [then] in two weeks I didn't have a good game. It was a good learning curve. My '21 campaign was pretty good. I thought I had it figured out. I thought I was going to come in and be ready to be in the big leagues. I thought I was going to feel that good forever. I realized it's not just concrete. You've got to earn it. There's a lot of variables every day. I just thought I was good enough to just show up and make it. Not that I didn't work hard or do things to earn it, but I really have an appreciation for how hard it is and I understand how hard the game is. I don't put that pressure on myself anymore. Last year when I showed up to the field, I just wanted to go home. I was like, "Man, I'm terrible right now."

MLB.com: How did you get over that hump?

Williamson: You just have to keep going. I think once I figured out how to maintain my arm a little more in between starts, how to make it feel better and better, and got to the offseason and strengthened my shoulder, that was a huge component of it all. 

MLB.com: You and your wife, Eivey, had your first baby in the offseason? 

Williamson: It's awesome. I love it. I knew having kids was awesome, but I didn't know it would be this great. Our little girl is named Pollie. We just love her. 

MLB.com: You hosted Lodolo in the offseason in Minnesota. What did you guys do up there?

Williamson: We went coyote hunting. It was -8 degrees and we were out there for like six hours. We gave him a little Yeti suit, basically, so he didn't get cold. 

MLB.com: How do you feel about your opportunity to make the team?

Williamson: I'm not going to say it's me against a couple of other guys. It might be. I totally came into camp thinking that if I do everything that I need to do, stay healthy and feel good, I think things will take care of themselves. If the other guys are better than me at this point, that's for someone else to decide. 

MLB.com: If you can make the big leagues this year, what do you expect it to feel like?

Williamson: First off, I'm hoping I just stay healthy. My shoulder feels good and if I can just let every ball go with no restraint, that if I get to the big leagues, it will be a big relief. Then it will be, "OK, now what do I have to do to play here?"