Notes: Williams relieved to be back
Hard work pays off after disappointing demotion to Triple-A
BALTIMORE -- Todd Williams is back in his element, pitching to big-league batters and avoiding the hassles associated with Minor League life. Williams, who has more Minor League saves (222) than any other active player, makes no bones about the fact that he was disappointed to be left behind when the Orioles broke camp this spring.
"It's been a real crazy month," said Williams, who was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday night. "Everything in Norfolk -- from the weather to the travel [and] the way things were going down there -- to put it lightly, was kind of miserable. I kind of channeled it to working on my pitches and [I] threw well, so it's good to be back here."
Williams said the Norfolk Tides experienced rain, sleet and snow during the first month of the season, and he also said the team was transported to and from the ballpark in a schoolbus for one of its games. Ten-hour bus trips became 15-hour odysseys because of mechanical difficulties, further underlining the ease of travel in the big leagues.
All of that was too much for Williams, but he didn't allow a run in 11 1/3 innings. There were times that the 36-year-old felt he just wasn't in Baltimore's plans, which was disheartening given his history with the team. Williams was a key contributor to the bullpen in each of the last three seasons, and that followed a decade of bouncing around.
"That was definitely a thought," he said Sunday. "There's a point, sometimes, where you feel like you're pitching for every other team in baseball. It happens a lot, and I accepted that fact. Again, I had to channel everything into trying to pitch well and hopefully get back to the big leagues with somebody. But obviously, the best situation was right here."
Part of the veteran's discontent stemmed from the way he threw in Spring Training. Williams said he spent most of the spring working on getting his sinker down lower, and he felt he was successful in that effort. He acknowledged that he allowed too many hits -- 16 in 10 spring games -- but said that most of them came on ground balls.
"It wasn't hard to accept the fact that other guys threw great in the spring. That's not a problem," he said. "It wasn't an issue with anybody or being outpitched to make the team, but it was frustrating. I worked so hard over the winter and thought I did what I had to do in Spring Training. I came in in good shape and continued to do my workout program.
"I threw the ball and worked on some things. I gave up a lot of hits, but most of them were ground balls, which I was pleased with, because that's what I was working on. ... I don't know if that plan backfired for me or what."
Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said that Williams basically got caught in a numbers game and didn't distinguish himself enough to earn an Opening Day job. His history meant something, but not quite enough.
"It wasn't easy to send Todd [down], but I didn't think Todd pitched his best in the spring. We've seen better from him," he said. "He may have just been working on some stuff, and assuming that you have a job. And we said in the beginning, we told everybody, ...'Don't assume you've got anything [sewn up] around here.'
"He might've taken it a little lightly, but he went down and did what he was supposed to do. He was a veteran guy, went down and said, 'OK, I wanna get back up here.'"
For starters: Perlozzo said he wouldn't go out of his way to give southpaw Brian Burres a pep talk before the first start of his big-league career. Burres stepped into the rotation Sunday in place of the injured Adam Loewen and could keep making starts if he's able to keep his composure and pitch well against the Indians.
"If I run past him, I might say something like, 'Just do your best and don't worry about a thing,'" Perlozzo said. "But normally, I'll just leave him alone and let him concentrate on the job he has to do. He'll be fine. I think if he gets through the first inning with no problems, he'll be OK."
Burres struck out the side in the first inning and allowed a run in the second, showing Perlozzo what he wanted to see.
The manager said he'd like to keep Burres and Jeremy Guthrie in the rotation as long as Loewen and Jaret Wright are on the disabled list, but he admitted that the Orioles won't have that luxury if things don't go well.
"For right now, I can't really say anything other than we'll see how they do, and if we have to go to other plans, then we'll do that afterward, but I think they deserve a shot to go ahead and do it," he said. "It'd be a great boost for us if they could come on in, step in and fill the gaps that we need. We'll see how they do, but I feel OK about it."
Bench marks: Utilityman Freddie Bynum hasn't played much in recent days, but Perlozzo said he isn't worried that Bynum will get stale from sitting on the bench. In short, he said that's an occupational hazard for a reserve player.
"I'm sure there is, but he works hard, though," Perlozzo said of the possibility. "You watch him on the field in pregame [and] he's in left field, right field [and] center field. He's taking ground balls all over the place. When you do those kind of things, you have a better chance. You're not going to expect a whole lot offensively coming off the bench and not playing much, but that's kind of the job of the 25th guy. We just hope for the best when he gets a chance."
Quotable: "I've put so much time in Triple-A. I'm not saying I'm too good -- I don't think anyone's too good for anything -- but I've done it. It's hard to really go down and work on things." -- Williams, on his spring demotion
Coming up: The Orioles and Indians will meet in a Monday series finale, pitting Steve Trachsel against Cleveland's Fausto Carmona at 12:35 p.m. ET. Last time out, Carmona shut the Orioles down into the ninth inning.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.