Jerome Williams won his fourth consecutive start Saturday night, overcoming five walks while giving up one run and five hits in 52/3 innings of a 6-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners, and before the game, Manager Mike Scioscia praised the right-hander for being the consummate team player.
All of which guarantees Williams nothing in 2014. Even if the Angels tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible Williams this winter — no sure thing considering how aggressively they plan to pursue pitching — Williams, 31, will have to win a rotation or bullpen spot next spring.
“It’s always a proving ground in the big leagues,” Scioscia said on a day the Angels, who have a major league-best 21-7 record since Aug. 23, were mathematically eliminated from wild-card contention.
“I don’t think any player should have the attitude, ‘I’m here, I’ve arrived, and I just need to go out and pitch.’ You want players to stay hungry, keep improving, keep that edge.”
Staying hungry may be a key for Williams. Literally.
Listed at 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds, Williams has battled weight problems for years, and they were an issue this past spring, Scioscia revealed Saturday.
“He didn’t come to spring training in the best shape,” Scioscia said. “I think it was an eye-opener for him, and he’s worked hard to get in shape.”
Were the Angels, who signed Williams for $2 million, disappointed?
“I don’t know if ‘disappointed’ is the right word, but certainly, it was addressed,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully he’ll learn from that, have a better process over the winter and come back better next year.”
Williams said he reported to spring training 15 pounds heavy, thinking the extra weight would add strength and stamina, and he lost it during camp.
“I feel a lot different now,” he said after the game. “It’s like night and day.”
Attitude definitely isn’t a problem for Williams, who opened the season as a long reliever, made five starts in May, went to the bullpen in early June and back to the rotation in late June.
Williams improved to 9-10 with a 4.55 earned-run average in 35 games, 23 starts, enduring a 13-start winless stretch from June 16-Aug. 31 before his September surge, his longest streak since he won five straight as a San Francisco rookie in 2003.
Williams wasn’t extremely sharp Saturday, but he pitched out of two-out, two-on jams in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Left-hander Buddy Boshers replaced Williams with two on in the sixth and struck out Dustin Ackley to end the inning.
The Angels took a 4-0 lead in the second on Grant Green’s three-run double to left and Andrew Romine’s run-scoring single.
Seattle scored in the third on Kyle Seager’s RBI groundout, but the Angels countered in fourth when Colin Cowgill snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a homer to center for a 5-1 lead.
Angels reliever Cory Rasmus balked in a run in the seventh, but Cowgill tripled and scored in the bottom of the seventh when Romine squared for a suicide squeeze and Joe Saunders threw a pitch to the backstop.
The Mariners pulled to within 6-4 in the eighth on Ackley’s RBI single and Abraham Almonte’s sacrifice fly. Angels closer Ernesto Frieri overcame Raul Ibanez’s 300th career homer, a solo shot in the ninth, to record his 36th save.