Jerome Williams has made little secret of his desire to start for the Angels.
And with a 4-2 record and a staff-low 3.48 ERA in seven tries entering the weekend, he had a pretty good case that his desire should be fulfilled.
Problem is the Angels have already spent $45.7 million on their rotation, which has limited Williams to long relief or the odd spot start, like the one he got Saturday in place of the injured Jason Vargas.
Unfortunately for Williams it was an opportunity he didn’t take advantage of, with the Pittsburgh Pirates pounding him for five runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-1 win over the Angels.
“I’ve just got to get the ball and perform. Tonight I didn’t do my job,” Williams said. “I’ve got to come back tomorrow and start doing my job.”
Consider the game a half-step back for the 31-year-old right-hander, who broke into the majors at 21 and won 17 games in parts of two seasons as a starter with the Giants. But then his career took a turn, sending him the bullpen, to the minor leagues -- even to Taiwan – before he got another chance in a swing role with the Angels at the end of the 2011 season.
“There’s stages of a player's career that are difficult,” Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s much tougher to make a footprint in the major leagues than it is to get to the major leagues. It’s just trying to forge your way through to get an opportunity is, at times, an issue.
“He’s going to get a chance to start now. And I know what his intentions are. His intentions are to take this and run with it and be a starter the rest of his career. And if he does do that then he’ll be a better fit for us definitely.”
How long that chance will last will depend on Vargas, who will see a specialist Monday for a blood clot that sent him to the disabled list last week. But Williams’ audition didn’t get off to a good start.
Pedro Alvarez opened the scoring for the Pirates with a one-out homer to right in the second. It was the third straight game with a homer for Alvarez, who later doubled.
The Pirates got two more runs in the inning, the first on Jordy Mercer’s run-scoring single and the other following an error by third baseman Alberto Callaspo, his seventh this month. That loaded the bases for Russell Martin, who drew a walk to make it 3-0 Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh extended the lead in fourth on a leadoff double by Neil Walker and Travis Snider’s RBI single before Andrew McCutchen made it 5-0 with his eighth homer of the year an inning later. Gaby Sanchez closed the scoring with a two-out eighth-inning homer off reliever Michael Kohn.
Williams had gone 10 days since he last start. And it was 11 days between starts before that. Usually starters pitch every fifth day.
But Williams refused to use that as an excuse.
“It shouldn’t affect me at all,” he said. “I’m always going to keep myself ready. I don’t think that’s an issue.”
The Angels had their chances against Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano (6-3), getting runners on in four of the first five innings. But they didn’t get anyone home until Mike Trout chased Liriano with a two-out single in the seventh.
They lost another run in the fourth when Howie Kendrick was retired at the plate on a magnificent throw by left fielder Starling Marte. The Angels left the bases loaded in that inning, accounting for three of the 11 runners they stranded on the night.