Williams hoping to make a dent in Phillies’ lineup
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has set his sights on gaining a full-time role coming out of spring.
He’s already made quite an impression on Gabe Kapler — and on the new manager’s ride, too.
Williams dented Kapler’s rental SUV with a home run during batting practice Tuesday and tried to ding his favorite target again Wednesday.
“The breeze coming in from right field did not stop Nick Williams from destroying the baseball and almost hitting my car for the second straight day,” Kapler said.
Insurance will surely cover the light damage and Kapler is more than happy to see the 24-year-old hitting with power.
“If he is destroying cars and it happens to be mine, no problem,” Kapler added. “We’re going to make it a bull’s-eye for him.”
Williams, a former second-round pick for the Texas Rangers in 2012, showed some signs of what the future holds when he hit .288 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs in 313 at-bats as a rookie last season.
Williams spent the offseason working out in Austin, Texas, with personal trainer Jeremy Hills, a former University of Texas football player, and said he feels stronger than ever.
“The goal was to get stronger and put in a lot of work,” Williams said. “I have the best trainer in Texas. We worked, we put in hours, preparation, stretching, running, lifting, we did everything.”
The Phillies made moves in the offseason that have given them a surplus of outfielders. They signed Carlos Santana to play first base and moved Rhys Hoskins to the outfield with Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Williams.
Williams started in all three spots last season, mostly in right field.
Kapler says the crowded outfield is a good thing and he expects all four players to have plenty of opportunities at the plate.
“They all might be in the lineup more days than not,” Kapler said. “I envision plenty of at-bats to keep everybody satisfied, healthy and performing well.
“If you think about the fact that we know there’s going to be a few reps at first base. We know all the outfield reps are going to come. We know they’re going to be pinch-hit opportunities. We know there are going to be double switches. You factor all of these things in and there are a lot of at-bats. I’m not that concerned about it, they are all going to get a ton of reps,” he said.
Williams, however, isn’t thinking about a platoon role right now. He wants to be a difference-maker in the lineup.
“I had a decent year last year, but I’m a person who always wants more,” Williams said. “I want to help the team win anyway, I can but when we talk about goals, who says I can’t be an All-Star this year?
“I’m reaching high. I’ve competed with the best but I want more. I’m going for more,” he said.
The Phillies open their spring season with an exhibition game against the University of Tampa on Thursday afternoon. RHP Jerad Eickhoff will start and Kapler said he expects to use nine pitchers. Kapler hasn’t announced a starter for the Grapefruit League opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.