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Tuesday, October 8, 2002


[ BASEBALL ]

Williams on his way
to mastering Triple-A



By Al Chase
achase@starbulletin.com

Jerome Williams was 0-5 with a 5.00 ERA to start his first season at the Triple-A level with the Fresno Grizzlies in the Pacific Coast League. But neither he nor his manager, Lenn Sakata, were concerned.

"From the beginning he was a little unsure of himself. I don't think he was comfortable. As a 20-year-old, he was playing with guys four, five and six years older and that's a little difficult," Sakata said.

Williams said he has started slow every year in pro ball.

"I have to get used to the league, adjust to strike zones, the players I'm with and to the environment," said Williams, who has yet to have the benefit of playing on a really good team.

"It's frustrating (when his teammates don't score), but all I think about is pitching the game. Even when they don't score, I always want to keep my team in the hunt. If our pitchers did well, our hitters didn't hit. When our hitters produced runs, our pitchers didn't hold up their end. We rarely put it together this year."

The Waipahu High School graduate and the San Francisco Giants supplemental round selection (39th overall) in 1999, broke even (6-6 record) the remainder of the season to finish at 6-11 with a 3.59 ERA.

"This is a hitter's league. You can't make a mistake. I think it really tested Jerome," said Sakata, who will continue to work with one of the organization's top prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

"I think it is good he is going to Fall League. I think Jerome is starting to be more aware of the commitment you have to make to get to the big leagues. He realizes you can't just turn it on and off. He has the talent, now he has to put out the competitive effort on the mound.

Williams also realizes he has a chance to pitch for the Giants next year if he does well in Fall League. He is excited about the opportunity after turning down an invitation last year. Sakata told him to take advantage and build on what he learned this past summer.

"I learned how to be more confident with all my pitches. I was never confident with a first-pitch breaking ball, but now I can throw the change-up anytime," Williams said.

"The big thing was I learned to not relax just because we had a lead. That's how I got hit around. There is no such thing as cruising. That's why I started off 0-5."

Everyone in the Giants organization talks about how Williams' pitching mechanics are so effortless. Sakata says he throws his fastball in the low 90s, although not consistently. He says Williams throws at a speed where he can locate the ball where he wants to. It is something most pitchers find more important than velocity.

"Jerome has always had a good feel for pitching and you can't teach that. A lot of guys never acquire this," Sakata said. "He is coming along OK. It's just a matter of experience. His major league future is bright. He isn't far off. I don't think it would hurt for him to start at Triple-A next year and let him master Triple-A."

For the fourth consecutive season, Williams allowed fewer hits (140) than innings pitched (160 2/3) in 28 starts. He struck out 130 and issued 50 walks.

"For the last month or six weeks, Jerome was our best pitcher," said Sakata.



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