Williams Trying to Stay Focused

Jerome Williams is no different than many other athletes: he has a temper. That was never more evident than when he took a bat to the wall in the visitor's dugout back on April 21 after allowing seven runs in just an inning and a third at the new Busch Stadium against the Cardinals.

According to Williams, he "messed it up pretty good."

He now makes light of the batting practice session he had in St. Louis.

"I hope I don't have to end up paying for it," he recently joked during the Triple-A Iowa Cubs' four-game series in New Orleans. "I messed up the wall when I came out of the game. Messed it up pretty good. I was a little [ticked] off, so I took out my frustrations in the dugout. I left a pretty good mark on it. Hopefully they won't give me a bill for it."

A bill is one of the last things Williams could use right now. Since his demotion to Iowa, the 24-year-old has had up and down results -- primarily from the team's bullpen.

He has been ambushed by left-handed hitters, who are batting .367 with eight home runs, five doubles and 40 hits in 24 2/3 innings against him. Overall, he is 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 52-plus innings.

The right-hander knows there is no mystery as to why he's currently in Triple-A instead of Chicago. Results are results, no matter what spin you put on them, and in Williams' case, he makes no effort to spin anything.

"It's just about going out and focusing on every pitch," he said. "Try to do the things I've been doing the past couple of years -- locating the ball where I want, whenever I want. My first start versus Pittsburgh (April 15), I was really focused. Then the game against St. Louis, I still have no idea where my mind was. That's the type of stuff I have to correct here."

Williams had thrown six innings against the Pirates at PNC Park in his first start, allowing two runs and four hits in a loss.

When Williams was first sent to Iowa, pitching coach Alan Dunn noticed that he had gotten into a habit of shying away from the strike zone.

As of late, Williams has shown a more aggressive approach, Dunn says, which might explain his much improved month of June in which the right-hander had a 2.89 ERA and 12 strikeouts to just one walk against 77 batters faced.

"Early on when he got back here, I thought he wasn't attacking the strike zone and trying to pitch too much like a finesse pitcher," Dunn said. "He's got to get his stuff back to where it used to be, but we've seen a different guy these last four or five outings, which is the guy I want to see. It's a matter of him realizing who he is, what he has to do, and then going out and doing it."

Realizing who he is (or at least what role he belongs in) may be difficult. After years of starting, Williams has gone into the bullpen indefinitely.

With Randy Wells promoted from Double-A and Rich Hill being sent back from Chicago and creating enough strikeouts to cool off every stadium in the Pacific Coast League, Williams has made only a pair of starts in the last month and a half.

He admits he isn't sure what role his future has in store for him.

"Whatever happens, happens," Williams said. "Whatever role they want me to pitch in, I'll be glad to do it."

And as for the slightly misconfigured new home of the rival Redbirds?

"It was a nice stadium," Williams said. "Ball certainly seemed to travel pretty good ... "

Northsiders Report Top Stories