Williams facing final hurdle before returning

Williams facing final hurdle before returning

Williams facing final hurdle before returning
MINNEAPOLIS -- There's only one hurdle standing in the way of Jerome Williams making the Sunday start at Yankee Stadium and, thus, being inserted as the Angels' fifth starter: a Thursday bullpen session.

For someone who has overcome as much as Williams -- weight problems, pitching in Taiwan, a stint of independent ball and the perception that his career was finished -- that's nothing.

"I never thought I would be in this situation," said Williams, who started the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. "... I had a little setback with my hamstring, but now being part of a good team, competing every day, I'm just trying to do a good job, hopefully opening up in New York and trying to do a good job there. And hopefully show people, 'Hey, I'm back. I'm a good pitcher. I believe I can hang with big league guys again.' Hopefully that turns out good."

Williams got through his final rehab outing just fine on Tuesday, giving up two runs on six hits, walking none, striking out four, throwing 82 pitches and even making several fielding plays in six innings for Class A Inland Empire. Manager Mike Scioscia believes Williams is stretched out enough to make his next start in the big leagues, but wouldn't declare anything definite until after he completes his final workout.

"He looks good," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "His arm's fine and he's ready to go. Happy to have him back."

After posting a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings down the stretch with the Angels last season, Williams came into camp as a heavy favorite for the fifth spot.

A hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of camp, coupled by the presence of standout pitching prospect Garrett Richards -- who has given up just three runs in 13 1/3 Triple-A innings so far -- put that in question. But Williams, who's out of options, showed he's healthy through two Minor League rehab outings and is now lined up to make his first ever appearance at Yankee Stadium.

One problem for the 30-year-old right-hander: The start will be on ESPN, as part of its "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast.

Williams hates pitching on ESPN. He gave up just one run in eight innings while on there against the Mariners on Sept. 7 last season, but still prevalent in his mind is Game 4 of the 2003 National League Division Series against the Marlins, when he gave up three runs and lasted only two innings while pitching for the Giants.

"I had other bad ones, too," Williams said. "I just don't want to remember them."