Jerome Williams makes Phillies debut in 7-2 loss to Angels
ANAHEIM - Jerome Williams approached Ryne Sandberg in the dugout Tuesday afternoon, 3 hours before first pitch, and reminded him that he once signed a baseball for him.
It was 8 or 9 years ago. Williams was with the Chicago Cubs, one of the seven teams he’s played for in the last decade. Hall of Fame Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg was about to embark on a managing career.
“I still got it,” Williams said of the ball.
Later, Sandberg told a few members of the media, “I hadn’t realized I met him before.”
Williams could only hope to make a better second impression on his new manager later that night, when he became the ninth different pitcher to start a game for the Phillies in what’s been a forgettable 2014 season.
The 32-year-old journeyman pitched better than his 6.71 ERA for the season. Williams took a shutout into the sixth inning.
But the Angels batted around in that same inning, scoring seven times en route to a 7-2 win over the Phillies.
Since he hadn't pitched in 10 days, Williams was given an early hook, after throwing 72 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. Antonio Bastardo was summoned from the bullpen.
Bastardo walked the first hitter and served up hits to four of the last five he faced - with an assist from Marlon Byrd in overrunning a ball along the rightfield line - as Angels went from being blanked to giving out a beating in a matter of minutes.
The loss was the fourth for the Phillies in their last five games.
“Jerome did a nice job,” Sandberg said of Williams, who gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in the sixth, Angels leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun. “We wanted to keep him around 75 to 80 pitches since he hadn’t pitched in  days and he had just given up a home run. His velocity dropped in the sixth. And we couldn’t finish out the sixth inning.”
Williams was hardly his team’s problem on Tuesday night. But in plugging in a pitcher who had pitched only once this month, the Phillies drew their own, unenviable game plan before the game began.
And it wasn't the first time in the last 2 years the organization’s paltry pitching depth reared its ugly head.
Last July, the Phillies called on reliever Raul Valdes to start a game in Detroit. They lost, 10-0.
Last September, the Phillies started Zach Miner and Tyler Cloyd in six of their final 14 games. They lost five of those six games.
This year, the Phils were somewhat prepared for Cliff Lee’s lengthy stay on the disabled list, with David Buchanan handling the understudy role admirably. But when Roberto Hernandez was traded to the Dodgers, the embarrassingly short supply of major league-ready arms behind Buchanan in the upper levels of the minor leagues led them to reroute one pitcher with a near-6.00 big league ERA from Toledo one week (Sean O’Sullivan) and part ways with him the next week for a guy with a 6.71 ERA in 28 games (Williams).
Williams might have pitched fine on Tuesday, but he turns 33 this winter and is organization filler, not a long-term answer. Pillaging the waiver wire for 30-somethings isn’t the way winning baseball teams address pitching needs.
“It has to catch up with the homegrown guys filtering up through the system,” Sandberg said before the game.
When asked whether he had anyone that he could plug into his 2015 rotation who would fit that description, Sandberg mentioned Jesse Biddle, who returned to Class A Clearwater only last week after missing 6 weeks this summer for a mental break, and Aaron Nola, who is eight games removed from taking classes at Louisiana State University.
“We need some of the guys to filter up from the lower levels, to catch up with those guys coming up through the ranks,” Sandberg said. “That’s where it starts. It starts with your minor leagues and your homegrown. … In the meantime you have to have some guys on hand.”
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21