The 26-year-old right-hander replaced reliever Justin Miller, who went on the 10-day injured list Friday night after allowing a three-run home run to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Colin Moran in the 10th inning that cost Washington the game. The Nationals could use Williams in multiple roles, whether against specific batters or for an inning-plus, Manager Dave Martinez said.
“His breaking ball’s good, his fastball plays. He worked on his change-up all spring, and it was really good,” Martinez said. “I talked to him today, and I told him: ‘Hey, just use all your pitches and know who you are. Just throw strikes.’ ”
Williams made three appearances in Fresno, allowing four runs in 2⅓ innings, with five of the 12 batters he faced reaching base. His performance with the Grizzlies was a stark departure from his spring training showing. Williams mowed through hitters in West Palm Beach, allowing two hits, walking none and striking out seven in 7⅔ innings.
“I don’t worry about [the Class AAA performance] too much,” Williams said. “My stuff was there. Everything’s where I wanted it to be. It’s just about whether it works here. I’m pretty positive I have what it takes to contribute right now.”
On Friday night in Las Vegas, the bullpen phone rang in the third inning of the Grizzlies’ game against the Aviators, summoning Williams back to the clubhouse. It was an odd request, and the Nationals’ sixth-round pick in 2014 knew what it probably meant. He threw his belongings together and headed to the airport. Like Adrian Sanchez before him, Williams spent a long layover in Chicago and then headed to Washington.
He arrived Saturday morning, napped for three hours and took the field to stretch. Despite the lack of sleep, Williams assured reporters he was available to pitch because he hadn’t thrown since Thursday, and that was to one batter in Salt Lake City. Then again, it could’ve been the jolt of adrenaline Williams admitted to feeling now that he is back in the majors.
He’d wanted to make the Opening Day roster — what he called “one of the most special thing in sports” — but hadn’t. Now he was back.
“It was actually weird being in Fresno after the whole spring and everything,” he said. “It was like, click, I’m back in Triple-A. It was kind of a letdown at first, but when I got the call I started getting those emotions I had last year when I was here.”
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