10/09/2002 9:02 pm ET
Williams to take it slowly in Game 2
By Jared Hoffman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Most starting pitchers frequently talk about taking things one game at a time, but Woody Williams, the Cardinals starter in Game 2 of the NLCS on Thursday, won't even go that far. He'll be taking it one pitch at a time when he makes his first appearance in a game since having to leave his start Sept. 20 against the Astros because of pain in his side and rib cage area.
When asked Wednesday how many innings he thinks he can go against the Giants, Williams smiled and said, "I'm going to start with one, hopefully."
Williams has arguably been the Cardinals best starter when he has been healthy. Williams was 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA this season despite lengthy stints on the DL with a left oblique strain.
Williams left his first start of the season on April 5 at Houston with a the muscle pull and returned on May 15 with six shutout innings. He pitched at least six innings in every start and allowed three eared runs or less until July 6 when he came out after five innings against the Dodgers. It was a similar injury and a similar result as Williams was sidelined until Aug. 29. Williams went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four September starts before being sidelined again.
Williams was heartbroken as it appeared his season could be over. He wasn't healthy enough to make a start in the NLDS against Arizona and asked to be left off the roster.
"I just tried to maintain my confidence and just dealing with my treatment and stuff with the trainers, and I was just hoping before the playoffs were over that I would get my chance," said Williams.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the fact Williams was so sharp the previous two times he returned from the DL is a major factor the Cardinals believe he'll be sharp despite not having pitched in three weeks.
"That's absolutely the reason he's getting the ball tomorrow," said La Russa. "The first time he came back (from the DL), we talked about a rehab start and he was open to it and we saw him throw a simulated game, and he was just painting (the corners). What more does he have to do? So we brought him in there against the Cubs, and he pitched great. Next time, he did the same thing after being out for awhile, came back and pitched great.
"So with those two experiences and what we saw Sunday (in a bullpen session), we think he'll come out and pitch tomorrow. Believe me, it's not that he's not pitched in three weeks, but when you have that history, it's up to us to have that shot to take."
Williams didn't make a start against San Francisco this season, and is 3-4 lifetime with a 5.29 ERA in seven starts against the Giants.
"(Williams) is a guy who's going to be around the plate," said Giants first baseman J.T. Snow. "He knows how to pitch. He's going to spot his fastball. He's a thinking man's pitcher."
Williams said he doesn't think of himself as any type of pitcher but the thinking side of the game is a big part of what he does.
"It is a big part of my game, trying to stay one step ahead of the hitter," said Williams. "I don't have an overpowering fastball like most guys do, like Matt Morris and Jason Schmidt. They have outstanding velocity and movement on their fastball and are just able to overpower hitters where I have to nitpick a little bit and hit my spots with good pitches."
For Williams to do what he does best, he'll need to be healthy, an answer that should come while warming up or early in his start.
If Williams were unable to make his start or have to leave the game early, Garrett Stephenson or Jason Simontacchi would be called on on as a replacement.
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story has not been subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.