Phillies fans are expecting big things from outfielder Nick Williams, after he was acquired at last year’s trade deadline for Cole Hamels. The 23-year-old, who is enjoying his birthday today, has played in Lehigh Valley all season. Before the Triple-A All Star break, Williams hit .283, with 8 home runs and 43 RBIs, perhaps pleading his case to force GM Matt Klentak’s hand to make the call. It didn’t happen, of course. Since the break, the Texas native has struggled mightily, hitting just .214 and has drawn just one walk in 46 games.
I caught up with Williams in the Ironpigs clubhouse before Game 2 of the International League first round to talk about the big leagues and the pressure that come with it.
Me: Being one of the centerpieces in the Cole Hamels trade, do you feel any added pressure to perform?
Williams: No, I don’t think so, I don’t see it that way.
Me: I think you’re pretty close to making the majors. How do take your mind off that and stay more in the moment? Because the majors is your ultimate goal.
Williams: I would say the last month of the season I was thinking about the big leagues way too much. Sometimes you just got to sit back and say, you know, I can’t control that, I can’t do anything about that, so, you just have to keep going.
Me: There are a lot of expectations for many guys from this club to make the big leagues. You saw the 08′ Phillies team, many homegrown guys. How important is it to grow with this team?
Williams: I think the whole thing of growing with the team and things like that – everybody in the locker room is like family. It starts on the field, we play as hard as we can and that creates a bond in itself. Everyone is just battling and doing team at-bats. The team chemistry is really good. Off the field we hang out, things like that. We just have a great group of guys and we play hard.
Me: Were you surprised you didn’t get a call from the Phillies on September 1st?
Williams: Not really, because I was struggling a little but this past month, but thinking about it, I didn’t know it’d be that long either – so I just stopped thinking about it.
Me: Have you dreamt of what that moment will be like when you get it?
Williams: You know, I did, like all kinds of things, you know, talking to different people about it. At this point, I don’t even think about the big leagues in general. Just play hard here, so be it. I’ll go home and have a great time at home.
After a strong Ben Lively start (7.2IP, 5H, 2ER, 8Ks) went to waste in a 2-0 loss last night, Williams, JP Crawford, and company will look to even up this first round best-of-five series against Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Lehigh Valley is running out 29-year-old lefty Anthony Vasquez as Nick Williams will have his hands full with Scranton’s lefty Phil Coke, who collected a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2009.