Williams on shaky ground
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter
PITTSBURGH - It took Dave Williams only 21 pitches Thursday to lose the benefit of the doubt.
That was when the Reds' bullpen phone rang for the first of many times on a long afternoon at PNC Park, with Williams already trailing 4-0 on the way to a six-run first inning. Elizardo Ramirez began to warm up, and though he ultimately didn't replace Williams until the fourth inning, the Reds' fifth starter can't feel too good about his job security at the moment.
Cincinnati's rally for a 9-8 victory smoothed the edges of the postgame analysis of Williams' work, with both the pitcher himself and manager Jerry Narron plucking out the same positive - that Williams bounced back to throw a scoreless second and third inning before being lifted.
But that didn't change what had happened in the first. Williams hit the first batter he faced, Jose Bautista, then allowed singles to Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez to load the bases. Williams' first pitch to cleanup hitter Jason Bay was a 66 mph curveball, and Bay lofted it into the seats in left-center.
Williams then walked Jeromy Burnitz and went to a 3-1 count on the next hitter, Ronny Paulino, before Reds pitching coach Tom Hume got on the horn to bullpen coach Lee Tunnell, sending Ramirez into action.
It was not the kind of showing the Reds were looking for from Williams on the heels of his best start of the season, when he allowed one earned run in 8 1/3 innings against the Phillies last weekend.
"As well as he pitched down in his last outing the other night, it seemed like it was almost the opposite today - everything was up in the zone," Narron said. "The other night, his breaking balls, I think he threw all but five of them for strikes, and all of them were down."
Williams was nowhere near as composed Thursday. The first inning continued with a double by Paulino, an error by catcher Jason LaRue that allowed Jose Hernandez to reach and an RBI single by Jose Castillo before Williams finally settled down and retired the ninth, 10th and 11th men to come to the plate.
"I was trying to stick to my game plan, but when things start to happen, you tend to shy away from it, and I did," said Williams. "It wound up biting me."
The Reds will have to make a roster move Saturday when Eric Milton is activated from the disabled list. The easiest choice would be to send Ramirez back to Louisville to start regularly, which is what he was doing before Milton was injured. But Williams' latest performance, which lifted his ERA to 7.20 in eight starts with 74 baserunners allowed in 40 innings, might give the Reds pause.