Last offseason, Jerome Williams was on the shelf for quite a while as he waited to find out where his next home would be. The veteran had just turned in a career-high 169 1/3 innings for the Angels in 2013 and even though his core stats weren’t stellar, the advanced metrics indicated that he would have had a much better ERA with some luck on his side. Ultimately, Williams was left in limbo until February when he signed a one-year deal with the Astros with $2.1MM guaranteed. All in all, that offseason experience is one that the 33-year-old is glad to have in his rear view mirror.
“It was kind of nerve racking. Going through a season where I was with the Angels and I felt like things would have gotten done earlier, I proved to people that I could [start and pitch out of the bullpen] at that time. I was the only pitcher that had 25 starts and ten relief appearances, I think I was thinking at that time that people would come out and offer me something and it didn’t happen. It was kind of nerve racking but we got it done and that’s all that mattered,” Williams told MLBTR in the Phillies’ Clearwater clubhouse.
Even though he was biting his nails a bit, Williams says he wasn’t phoning agent Larry O’Brien to get constant updates. The Full Circle Sports Management rep has been in the field for more than 30 years and, as Williams put it, “he knows what he’s doing.” Indeed, O’Brien was relentless in his efforts to find a suitable deal for Williams and eventually he found a solid one-year platform for him to showcase his talents.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out in Houston and the next stop in Texas wasn’t fruitful, but he found success with the Phillies when he landed there in August. In nine starts for Philadelphia, Williams pitched to a 2.83 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 across 57 1/3 frames. After ending the year on a high note, Williams jumped at the chance to skip the free agent process and stick with the Phillies with a one-year, $2.5MM contract extension.
“This was a no-brainer for me,” Williams explained. “Playing with them for the couple months I was with them, it was a no-brainer. The atmosphere, the guys in the clubhouse, the city, it was a no-brainer to come back.”
Williams credited his Philadelphia battery mates Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves for his improved performance to close out the year. His comfort level with the Phillies also helped matters. With seven different major league stops over the course of his career, Williams knows what he likes in a clubhouse and what he would rather avoid.
“I like being here because everybody treats everybody like family. When I came in, I was a new guy but I’ve been a long time and I knew a lot of the veteran guys here, so that made the transition a lot easier. I started talking to Jimmy [Rollins], Chase [Utley], I played with Chase in the [Arizona] Fall League, I played against Marlon [Byrd], I played against A.J. [Burnett], so it’s like, whoa, I know these guys.”
“Just seeing the younger guys mature, it was like a family, so that’s what the clubhouse is all about. This is your domain, this is our family, this is our place. So if we can be one as a family and as a unit, we can do things together,” Williams said.
Family is a concept that’s hugely important to Williams. In honor of his late mother who lost her battle to breast cancer in 2001, he’ll once again be donning a multitude of colorful gloves to raise awareness for different forms of cancer. Williams’ top choice is pink in recognition of his mother, but he’ll also be mixing it up with four different colors to put the spotlight on prostate, pancreatic, liver, and childhood cancers.
After a stress-free winter and a productive spring, Williams is eager to take the mound in April and build on his strong performance at the close of 2014. If all goes according to plan, Williams won’t find himself waiting around for a call next winter either.