Pirates Notebook: Trevor Williams Makes His Case For the Opening Day Roster

BRADENTON, Fla. — If Drew Hutchison pitched his way out of the starting rotation on Tuesday night, Trevor Williams might be pitching his way in.

The 24-year-old right-hander pitched four scoreless innings of relief against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday and has finished his Grapefruit League work with ten consecutive scoreless outings. Williams said that he placed extra emphasis on finishing the spring strong, and in a polar opposite to what Hutchison did on Tuesday night, finished with a flourish.

“It’s a the point in camp when you’re really competing for that spot,” he said. “The first few outings, you’re trying to get your fastball behind you. You’re trying to get your rhythm down. You’re trying to get your delivery under your feet. The last few outings, I really made it a goal of mine just to go out and compete and lay it all on the line. I thought I did well in that regard. It’s out of my control. I’d better go out with a bang if it’s out of my control.”

Williams credited his fastball, especially the two-seamer for the positive performance. That, and a reunion with an old friend.

“It was an aggressive fastball,” he said. “I wanted to get ahead of hitters and really establish my fastball down. I felt like we did a great job with that. I threw more sinkers today. It was my first time throwing to Stallings all spring. It was kind of a nice little reunion at the very end. We picked up where we left off last season. It was great to work with him again. He knows what my strengths are. I’m still working things out with Stew and Cervelli. We’re slowly getting on the same page.”

Williams and Tyler Glasnow are the last two battling it out for the No. 5 starter spot, and with the release of right-handed relief pitcher Jared Hughes on Wednesday, it seems that Williams has an inside track to make the opening-day roster, whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen. That has been what he’s working toward all spring.

“I set a very high goal for myself,” he said. “I wanted to pitch at Fenway. There’s not many times, especially playing in the NL Central that you’re going to have a chance to pitch in Fenway. I think everything leading up to there is that expectation. Because I worked really hard this Spring Training. I made a lot of great strides in my delivery and with my pitchability. … But there’s so many guys with talent on and off our roster. There’s talent in our entire minor-league system. The battle for this fifth spot is great. It’s great for the entire team. It’s great for the staff. But at some point, we’re all going to help the Pirates win games.”


Gerrit Cole started and thew three innings while allowing three runs, all via long home runs, including a shot by Aaron Altherr than cleared the batter’s eye in center field. Cole hit 99 on the radar gun during the abbreviated outing, but manager Clint Hurdle said he had some control issues at times.

“I loved his velocity, but there were a couple of misfires with his location,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The curveball played well, the changeup was firm. He was extremely strong today. I think he finished in a very good place.”


The Pirates released reliever Jared Hughes on Wednesday. Hughes was one of the longest-tenured Pirates and a beloved fixture in the clubhouse, and both coaches and players expressed their disappointment in the fact that he won’t be with the team going forward.

“It was a hard decision. Maybe one of the hardest I’ve been involved in,” Hurdle said. “In the best interests of the team moving forward, we felt we’re stronger heading this way.”

“It’s pretty unfortunate,” said shortstop Jordy Mercer. “I’ve been around here a long time and he was one of the first guys I met. … It just stinks. Everybody sees the kind of competitor that he is on the mound, but for me it’s about the type of guy he is and the type of family man he is. Those are the hard ones to lose.”

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At the least, Williams has earned a spot in the bullpen – which is where I think he would be most useful and effective….

jason d

I believe both Williams and Glasnow make the trip north with Glasnow’s growth and upside giving him the starter’s edge. I believe Williams got the nod over Brault because Trevor is right handed. The bullpen needs a righty so no Brault, hence Glasnow gets the 5th starter job also. I love the move, even though I will miss Jared Hughes’ video screen presence. Williams may see a slight velovity increase in shorter outings and Glasnow still has top rotation potential in front of him. Now to trade Bastardo for 2 bags of balls and eyeliner and complete your bullpen.


Do you think they may send Bell down to get his act together and keep Osuna up?


This is one of the first times in recent history I’ve felt they are trying to bring the best 25 North, good to see.


Honest question: when did they not bring the best team north? IMO: The best team means you are able to keep your depth as well. The decisions this year may just line up to where they keep the best 40 in the org, while still being able to bring up the best 25. I don’t get why some believe they purposely try and lose, by making bad decisions on roster.


“IMO: The best team means you are able to keep your depth as well.”

So not the best 25. Got it.

Harry S

The organization is a little less without Jared Hughes, good luck to a class guy.
If Williams is the 5th starter he won’t actually get to pitch in Fenway. If he’s in the bullpen we better hope he doesn’t pitch in Fenway. That would mean someone had a bad start.

dr dng

So where does this put the rule 5 guy?
He looked good the other night.
Someone suggested that the Pirates would
send him back to the Yankees long enough
to work a trade then send him to Indy.
Now, I think that move might be a little expensive
and I am sure they would not take Bastardo or Jaso
for him.

dr dng

Can you do a side by side comparison?
Jaso vs Osuna

Blaine Huff

I like Williams…he’s never going to be an ace, but if he can consistantly go 5+ and keep the ERA under 4.50…that’s nothing to complain about from a #5 . Best of luck to him if he gets the nod.

Joe Nastasi

Release of Hughes was correct move, but it sucks because he was just such a stand-up guy. I hope he finds another mlb gig. If he does whatever city it is will be very lucky to add him to their community. Good Luck Mr. Hughes

William R. Maloni Sr

Someone will grab him and take his salary which gives BN his much desired “financial flexibility.”

Joe Nastasi

This move had ZERO to do with financial flexibility. The league has just learned to lay off his down & in sinking FB. Pure baseball decision.


I think the Pirates were very fair with him and gave him every chance to hang on for another season. The Pirates play that “small market” chip, but were very fair in allowing Vogelsong and Rodriguez to achieve incentives last year, and tendering Hughes for Arbitration goes right up there also.

Scott K

Wait a minute! Didn’t you get the memo? Nutting is cheap! Only cares about profits, and ski slopes. Certainly not his employees, and most certainly not championships!

Quick, turn on some Pittsburgh sports talk radio for mental reconditioning!


I missed where Nutting gave Huntington additional budget space to account for these wasted resources. Do you have a link? 😉

Scott Kliesen

Ah I see, damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.


No, there was neither a “do” or a “don’t”. Nutting has nothing to do with this decision.

Joe S

Gerrit Cole outpitched by a large margin by

Joely Rodriguez!

Brian Z

I’m with thecrow here, it was the final warm up game before it matters. In spring training, you’ll see a lot of the established pitchers have bad stats while the run of the mill pitchers are trying to make an impression. So basically….nothing to see here.


On the same day, Kershaw went three, walked two, and gave up two runs. I have a suspicion no one’s worried about that guy.

William R. Maloni Sr

That’s because he’s produced in the “bigs,” none of our starters have.


Gerrit Cole finish top five in NL Cy Young voting just two seasons ago while posting a 5 WAR campaign, so…


Joely was pitching for a job, Cole was pitching to get 60 pitches and remain healthy.


It’s probably just my small mindedness, but I never realized these guys put so much emphasis on making the opening day roster. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.


Some very good reasons – Trevor Williams will turn 25 in April, and that is a type of barrier for a SP. The chances of making your initial MLB Rotation decrease greatly with each year beyond 25, and that has been his goal for at least the last 10 years. Then there is always the extra cash – about 5 times as much? And finally, your name is out there to all of those clubs who may not have the riches of SP’s that the Pirates have worked to develop.

Very impressed with Williams, and he has made it an easy decision for the Pirates. Hanson is that leadoff batter the Pirates have lacked for 2 or 3 years, and Casey Hughston looked very good in his first two AB’s yesterday.


And the travel. It gets old being a minor leaguer…


I’ve been so focused on the health of Cervelli and Stew in terms of their own readiness for the season that I never really thought about how ST injuries to catchers affects the ability of new or upcoming pitchers to get their work in with those guys. I hope there’s enough consistency behind the plate this season to let some of these young pitchers reach a comfort zone and excel.


Reward Williams for a good Spring, send him north!


It makes perfect sense, so do we really think that will happen?


I hope it will happen. As a general principle I like to reward performance, even a small sample size Spring Training. I am not a big fan of the “body of work” theory for players trying to win a job. Though you have to cut some slack for a proven veteran who might be off to a slow start in the Spring.


It has been a contest between about 3 or 4 young SP’s. Nobody will doubt that TG has the velocity and ungodly breaking stuff, but has been good and then not so good. Williams has been very consistently good. We are looking for a No. 5 who can be an innings eater, and keep the Pirates in the game for 5 innings.

That does not preclude TG from getting his 3rd pitch together, and in May or June, come up and stay up for the next 6 years.


I agree.


The last time games actually counted, Trevor Williams wasn’t good enough to beat out Ryan Vogelsong for starts.

Spring Training stats, tho!


They should run Williams out there until he cools off the hot hand, then bring up Glasnow if he is ready, or Brault if he is not. This is the 5 slot afterall.


Can this team afford to “settle”?

This was a club on the tail end of the contender group in the NL *before* losing Kang for an indefinite amount of time. I don’t think giving the nod to Williams will be some travesty, but it’s an uninspired decision. This club is not set up to tread water on their way to a playoff spot, they need high beta performers to hit.


I agree. They need as many or more above average performances this year as they had below average performances last year if they are to contend. SP looks to be stronger, we’ll see. Loss of Kang’s power is huge. Much bigger hole than a nominal difference in choice of the #5 pitcher.
Adding Quintana would have been great, but the price was probably outlandish.

William R. Maloni Sr

Really, how many of our “young pitchers”–going back seven or eight years–have made it in MLB?

Trade some young hurlers for Quintana and live with the result. The PBC will need some quality pitching (and hitting–which they don’t have) to improve on last year’s record.


The rumored price I read included position players lIke Austin Meadows and Josh Bell in with two pitchers. No way I would do that, glad they didn’t.

Travis P

I would say he looks much improved over last spring…we’d be hard pressed to find anyone to say otherwise.


Comments from April 2016; strike “Nicasio”, insert “Williams”.

I have no doubt Williams “looks” better, tends to happen when you aren’t sporting an ERA beginning with a 7. But has his velocity bumped? Is he throwing a different pitch? Significantly higher strike rate?

Or is he still a heavy sinkerballer with average secondaries and average command?

Travis P

Well I would say his location and command is much better now then when he was out there last year.


That is exactly the case and makes all the difference. He has an average group of pitches but he has been keeping it down and locating well.


And this is the classic Spring Training trap, right?

Throwing the equivalent of three starts-worth of innings would never be enough signal for one to confidently say a pitcher has appreciably improved a skill such as command, and that’s if one even has the proper tools to measure such a thing.

Williams *may* have improved his command over the winter, but without a mechanical change to at least help build the narrative we’re left judging a minuscule amount of innings without the proper metrics to do so even over a larger sample.

I don’t see any reason to believe Williams is any different than the pitcher he was projected to be.

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