Williams Makes Triumphant Return to Majors
By Fred Guzman
Remember Jerome Williams? He’s the hard-throwing right-hander from Waipahu chosen in the first-round of the 1999 baseball draft by the San Francisco Giants. That’s the same year that the Los Angeles Dodgers picked Maui’s Shane Victorino in the sixth round.
Williams quickly rose up the baseball ladder to make his debut with the Giants in 2003. But a promising start – going 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 2003 and 10-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 2004 — Williams began to fade.
He spent time with the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals before falling out view for a few years. He even spent last season pitching for the Uni-President Lions in Taiwan.
Victorino, meantime, had several false starts before establishing himself as a big-leaguer in 2006 with the Phillies. Since then, he’s gone on to win a World Series ring, make a pair of All-Star Games and earn a couple of Gold Gloves for his defensive work in center field.
Williams started this season with an independent league team. He pitched effectively enough to catch the attention of the Angels, who signed him a minor-league conract.
After posting a 7-2 record in 11 starts for Salt Lake of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, Williams earned promotion to the big club, which is currently in pursuit of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.
On Sunday, Williams celebrated his first start in the majors in four years by posting his first big-league win in almost six. The now 29-year-old Williams allowed a run and six hits over seven innings, struck out six and walked none in a 7-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Quite a comeback story, isn’t it?
Williams is one of four players from Hawaii currently on a big-league roster.
Victorino is the most productive. On Monday, he had two hits – a homer and triple – and drove in three runs in helping the National League East-leading Phillies to a 9-4 win over the New York Mets.
The homer and triple were each his 14th of the season. He also has 77 runs and 49 RBI. He ranks second in the majors in triples, seventh in batting average among NL hitters and has successfully stolen 17 bases in 20 attempts.
Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki has struggled at the plate this season, but he enoyed a productive outing in Monday’s 6-5 victoryover the New York Yankees. Suzuki went 2-for-5 – including a double – and scored a run. He’s now batting .233 with 12 homers, 40 runs and 34 RBI.
The other big-leaguer with Hawaii ties is Seattle closer Brandon League The former Saint Louis School standout was named to this summer’s All-Star Game.
But his save opportunities have dried up as the Mariners have spent the second half of the season in a prolonged slump. League was the losing pitcher in a 7-5 loss to Cleveland, dropping his record to 1-5 with a 3.19 ERA. His 31 saves rank third in the AL.