NEW YORK — Nick Williams made headlines early in the season when he expressed his disappointment over not playing every day for the Phillies.
Looking back, though, he concedes that coming off the bench might have made him a better hitter.
Williams entered the nightcap of Monday's doubleheader against the New York Mets with 11 home runs, one less than his total as a rookie last season. But he reached that mark in only 213 at-bats compared with 313 last year after making his major-league debut.
"It's just proving to me that the power is there," Williams said. "It shows me that I have potential to hit a lot of homers and put up some big numbers. That feels good."
Williams has taken over as the Phillies' primary rightfielder, supplanting the struggling Aaron Altherr. But he started only 21 of the season's first 49 games and played so sparingly at times that manager Gabe Kapler was asked in early May if the Phillies would be better off sending Williams to triple A for more regular at-bats.
Instead, the Phillies used Williams as a pinch-hitter, a role that the 24-year-old was not accustomed to during his time in the minors. Realizing that few hitters put up big numbers coming off the bench, Williams said he relaxed and simplified his plate approach en route to going 10-for-21 with three home runs.
"I didn't have crazy expectations for myself doing it," Williams said. "I said, 'I'm just going to try to have a good at-bat.' If I didn't have success in this at-bat or get a hit or something, I was like, 'Well, I was meant to fail anyway.'"
Williams collected three hits in the opener of the doubleheader, a 4-3 loss to the Mets in 10 innings, and was batting .270 with 23 homers in 529 at-bats through the first 164 games of his career after an 0-for-3 outing in the nightcap. Kapler noted that Williams has been chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone, a development that has him "looking more and more like a middle-of-the-order bat," the manager said.
It seems silly now to think Williams would have benefited from more playing time in triple A, when all he had to do was hit his way back into getting regular at-bats and help the Phillies in the process.
"Do I think going to triple A would've helped me? No," Williams said. "If I would've went to triple A, I would've wanted to pinch-hit. I wouldn't have wanted to play every day. Because what would that do for me if I was in the big leagues pinch-hitting? Nothing. I just needed to try to make the best of the situation and position that I was in."
The Phillies are planning to call up 22-year-old righthander Enyel De Los Santos from triple A to make his major-league debut Tuesday night, Kapler confirmed Monday.
De Los Santos is needed because righthander Vince Velasquez (bruised right forearm) isn't eligible to be reinstated from the 10-day disabled list until Wednesday. Velasquez almost certainly will start the series finale Wednesday night, Kapler said.
Acquired from the San Diego Padres in an offseason trade for shortstop Freddy Galvis, De Los Santos leads the International League with a 1.89 ERA in 16 starts. He's tied for sixth in the league with 87 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings. He was also selected as the Phillies' lone representative in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in Washington.
To open a spot on the 40-man roster for De Los Santos, the Phillies are expected to place infielder Pedro Florimon on the 60-day disabled list. Florimon has missed the last five weeks with a fractured right foot. Lefty reliever Hoby Milner was optioned to Lehigh Valley after the game, opening the spot on the active roster for De Los Santos.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez returned to the lineup after a two-game absence from fouling a ball off his foot. He went 2-for-8 with a walk in the two games. … Righthander Zach Eflin gave up three runs in five innings in the opener and had his six-start winning streak stopped. … Centerfielder Odubel Herrera didn't play in the nightcap after going 0-for-5 and committing an error in the first game. … Reliever Luis Garcia (wrist) is "getting really close" to returning from the disabled list, Kapler said, although he's only beginning to reincorporate his splitter to his fastball-slider combination. … Reliever Jake Thompson got called up as the Phillies' 26th player for the doubleheader and was returned to Lehigh Valley after the games.