With at-bats dwindling, could Phillies' Nick Williams get sent down?

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Phillies Nick Williams raises his arms tossing his bat after striking out swinging to end the fourth-inning against the Red Sox during spring training.

MIAMI — As a prospect with the Texas Rangers and a big part of the Phillies’ return in the Cole Hamels trade, outfielder Nick Williams has always been an everyday player.

This season, he has been mostly a spectator.

Williams wasn’t in the lineup again here Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins, marking the seventh time in eight games that he has been on the bench at the beginning of a game. Once again, Aaron Altherr started in right field for the Phillies.

With only 54 at-bats through the first 28 games, it’s hardly a surprise that Williams was in an 0-for-20 rut until his pinch-hit single in the seventh inning. It was his first hit since April 16, also as a pinch-hitter. Williams doesn’t sweat so much as he rusts.

And although every team employs a fourth outfielder to start once or twice a week, it usually isn’t a 24-year-old who hit 12 homers in only 343 plate appearances as a rookie last season. If Williams isn’t going to get more regular at-bats with the Phillies, the team will surely have to consider giving them to him at triple-A Lehigh Valley.

“I don’t think there’s a point at which that decision has to be made,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I’ll say that the most important thing is that he continues to work a strong process every day, that he continues to focus on his professionalism, and that when he gets his opportunities, he’s ready for them.”

There are signs, though, that the Phillies are contemplating a move with Williams. Roman Quinn, who profiles more as a bench player, started the past two games in right field for Lehigh Valley after making his previous 16 starts in center field, although it’s worth noting the Phillies try to expose players to multiple positions in the minor leagues.

Altherr was batting only .192 in 73 at-bats entering Tuesday night but had nine hits in his last 25 at-bats. He also has had several big hits, including a three-run homer last week against Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke.

Williams has kept a relatively low profile since his critical comments early in the season. After starting only two of the first six games, Williams said of Kapler’s lineups, “I guess the computers are making it, I don’t know,” a reference to the manager’s fondness for analytics.

Extra bases

Rhys Hoskins was hitless in 13 at-bats before a fifth-inning RBI double in Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss. … Carlos Santana snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a leadoff double in the ninth inning. … Righthander Jerad Eickhoff threw 20 pitches of live batting practice at the Phillies’ facility in Clearwater, Fla., the latest step in his recovery from a lat muscle strain. Eickhoff incorporated each of his pitches, including curveballs. But although Kapler said “everybody was raving” about how well Eickhoff threw, the Phillies haven’t decided on a next step. They remain hopeful Eickhoff will return later this month. … Former major-league infielder Jose Valentin, father of Phillies rookie infielder Jesmuel Valentin, was at the game.