Monday, March 12, 2001

Williamson's exit raises issues

Reds say forearm tightness nothing serious

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer


        SARASOTA, Fla. — Scott Williamson suffered tightness in his right forearm in the Reds' 2-1 exhibition loss Sunday to the Texas Rangers, forcing his departure after two scoreless innings.

        “He probably could have continued,” Reds team physician Dr. Tim Kremchek said.

        “If it was during the (regular) season, I'd still be pitching,” Williamson said, minutes after his removal.

        Minor as the ailment seemed, issues lingered:

        • With Pete Harnisch, Osvaldo Fernandez, Rob Bell and Dennys Reyes already having logged outings of four innings or more and the exhibition schedule due to be halfway complete by the time Williamson makes his next start, he risks falling far behind with another setback.

        • Manager Bob Boone still regards Williamson as a starter. But if Williamson returns to the bullpen, who will fill the spot in the rotation earmarked for him?

        Harnisch, Bell, Fernandez and Elmer Dessens appear certain to start. The other candidates are question marks: Williamson, whose appearances have decreased in length (three innings, then 2 2/3 before Sunday); Reyes, who is likely to revert to relieving; rookies Jared Fernandez and Chris Reitsma, whose next major-league innings will be their first; and Seth Etherton, who allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning Saturday against Kansas City after experiencing shoulder weakness.

        Boone said the next appearances for each potential starter could be crucial.

        “I'm probably going to have to start making some decisions the next time around, just because seven or eight starters are going to eat up a lot of innings,” he said.

        Boone said he'll try to find additional time for a work-starved pitcher or two by scheduling simulated games.

        If Williamson can stay on the mound, he'll likely stay in the rotation. He has experienced what he called these forearm “spasms” before, specifically last July 20 at Houston, when he lasted just three innings in a 7-0 loss. But he made his next start on schedule and yielded just one run in six innings.

        “It's nothing serious,” Kremchek said. “I don't know when his next chance to pitch is, but we're hoping he'll be able to make his next start.”

        Brief as Williamson's Sunday outing was, it was typical. He dominated the Rangers in a perfect first inning, throwing just 11 pitches. The right-hander opened the second inning by striking out All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez, then loaded the bases by walking Ken Caminiti, hitting Gabe Kapler and surrendering Ruben Mateo's infield single. Williamson survived by striking out Scott Sheldon and getting a line drive to third base from opposing pitcher Ryan Glynn.

        “I thought this was his best (spring) outing,” Boone said.

        Williamson agreed, mentioning his fastball and a new split-fingered delivery he learned from pitching coach Don Gullett that breaks horizontally, like a slider, away from right-handed hitters.

        “I finally pitch decent,” said Williamson, who allowed five runs in his previous two outings, “then something like this (arm tightness) happens.”

        Williamson reiterated his desire to start, citing Cincinnati's glut of relievers and the reduction of strain on his arm that being in the rotation will afford.

        He also said his education as a pitcher has barely begun.

        “I've got so much to learn, it's not even funny,” Williamson said. “It's like I'm starting an 18-chapter book and I'm just at the third chapter right now.”

        Williamson was 5-8 last year with a 3.29 ERA. He appeared in 48 games, starting 10.

        He threw 112 innings last year, allowing only 92 hits while leading the team in strikeouts with 136. He also walked 75 men. As a reliever he had six saves.


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