The Angels finally needed to go their fifth starter on Sunday, which meant that Jerome Williams made his first start of the year. After a couple of minor league rehab starts, Williams was thrown in the deep end right off the bat, asked to pitch against the Yankees for the first time in his career in Yankees Stadium for the first time ever, and on a nationally televised primetime game on Jackie Robinson Day. Pletny of pressure for an opening start…and Williams was feeling it.
According to Mark Saxon at ESPN, Williams admitted to feeling “anxious” prior to the start and could have let the stage overwhelm him.
“Just the magnitude here and the significance of the day, too, it’s pretty nerve-wracking,” Williams said. “I’ve got to calm my nerves down and go out there and pitch.”
He certainly seemed to fail on calming his nerves, as he lasted just 2.2 innings Sunday night, giving up five runs on five hits, walking three and striking out just one. He threw just 48 pitches on his way to racking up a 16.88 ERA before getting pulled and putting an extra strain on an already taxed bullpen. So should Williams have gotten the fifth spot in the rotation?
Williams came on late last season and was impressive for the Angels, which put him solidly at the front of the line for this fifth position. He lost three weeks of spring training when he hurt his hamstring, but was able to rehab back quick enough to keep the young Garrett Richards from overtaking him for the position, despite a strong spring for Richards. This is the first time that Williams has been on a major-league roster in April since 2007, and has spent time since then all over the world trying to get back to this point, revealing that he’s “just happy” to be here, and his performance on Sunday was indicative of that.
The Angels will need Williams to snap out of being happy just to be here and find a drive to pitch well and stay here if he’s going to be the anchor of the rotation. The situation on Sunday was stressful, and not an easy way for anybody to make their first start of the season, but Williams will need to toughen up and not let the moment overwhelm him again to hold onto his starting job. The Angels are not playing well enough right now to carry a pitcher who can’t get out of the third inning because he can’t handle a big stage and some bright lights. Williams is scheduled to make his next start Friday at home against Baltimore.