It all comes down to this for Williams
Veteran righty needs strong start to ensure place in rotation
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Final roster decisions are looming, but it's likely the final cuts will not be made until after the last exhibition game next Saturday against the Tigers.
Thirty-four healthy players remain in camp and there is a chance they all will travel to Houston for the two games at Minute Maid Park with Detroit. Much of the roster is set, but manager Cecil Cooper and his corps have to decide who will occupy the final spot in the rotation, who will fill the bullpen and which two position players will nab the final roster spots.
Keep an eye on Woody Williams, who will start Sunday against the Braves at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. Time is running out for the veteran right-hander, and while Cooper didn't say definitively that Williams will have to have a good showing in his final spring appearance next weekend to merit making the rotation, that's probably where the situation is headed.
Williams has a spring ERA of 13.89 over four starts.
"Huge," Cooper said, asked how important Sunday's game is for Williams. "Just like the last one was big."
The last one may have been big, but it wasn't good. Williams gave up five earned runs to the Dodgers at Vero Beach last Monday. While the defense behind him was wholly unimpressive, Williams had his share of struggles as well.
Asked what will happen if Williams struggles on Sunday, Cooper replied, "Read what you want to read into that. You guys can use your imagination.
"We have to give people every opportunity. That was the watch word coming in -- 'you'll get a chance, you'll get a chance, you'll get an opportunity.' And that's what we'll continue to do. We won't deviate from that. But he needs to pitch good. He knows that. He can't keep going the way he's been going. He has to pitch better."
Williams is one of three pitchers receiving consideration for the final rotation spot. Chris Sampson, who will start Tuesday against the Tigers, and Jack Cassel are also in the mix. Brian Moehler has a good chance to make the team as a spot starter/long reliever.
Cooper will also have to decide which two position players will make the club. The pool of five includes Jose Cruz Jr., David Newhan, Tomas Perez, Humberto Quintero and Reggie Abercrombie.
"[They] all have made strong cases for taking one of those two spots," Cooper said. "Some have stepped up, big time. We'll probably wait until the last minute [to decide]. All will end up going to Houston and we'll make a decision there."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.