'The stage doesn't look too big for' Nick Williams after game-winning grand slam vs. Brewers

'The stage doesn't look too big for' Nick Williams after game-winning grand slam vs. Brewers


MILWAUKEE -- The sample size isn't very big — just 13 games — but Nick Williams is quickly making an impression.

The 23-year-old outfielder had two hits Sunday afternoon, including his first career grand slam which proved to be the deciding factor in the Phillies' 5-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park (see Instant Replay)

That boosted his average to .279, nearly matching the .280 mark he posted in 78 games earlier this season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he hit 15 home runs with 44 RBIs.

"He's been playing very aggressively," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He has some things he has to change with his swing, some holes like everybody else, but I like the way that he's playing. I'm happy with him so far."

That aggressiveness paid off in a big way Sunday.

The Phillies watched a 1-0 lead disappear an inning earlier when Brewers rookie Brett Phillips tagged Jeremy Hellickson for a two-run home run — the first of his career.

The Phillies opened the sixth with three straight singles off Rob Scahill, and with the left-handed-hitting Williams due up, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell called on lefty Tyler Webb, who had yet to throw a pitch since being acquired in an All-Star break trade with the Yankees and only had six big league appearances under his belt before that.

But Williams was familiar with Webb from their time in Triple A and had an idea of what to expect. 

“I watched a couple of clips of him pitching and said, ‘Wait I think I faced this guy. A couple of weeks ago actually,'" Williams said. "In that situation, bases loaded I was thinking even if you hit the ball on the ground, get something going because we were down one run.”

Webb's first offering was a slider, right down the middle and Williams got all of it, putting the Phillies ahead.

“I don’t think I had a lot of success against him last year, but I remember I faced him this year," Williams said. "He threw me a first-pitch slider and I hit a homer. I remembered that. First pitch again, slider and another homer.

"It’s crazy.”

Williams' grand slam wasn't a cheap shot in a hitter-friendly yard, either, but rather a no-doubt-about-it blast that traveled an estimated 411 feet to left-center, one of the deepest parts of Miller Park. 

The distance was impressive but not nearly as much as the approach. 

“It was a mistake and he jumped all over it first pitch instead of taking it," Mackanin said. "Bases loaded, you’ve got to be ready for a mistake first pitch and he was.”

Acquired from Texas in a 2015 deadline deal that shipped Cole Hamels to the Rangers — the same deal that brought back Monday's starter Jerad Eickhoff — Williams struggled at times in the minor leagues and was even benched twice last season for failing to run hard.

There's been no issue with his hustle this season, Mackanin said. 

"Players have to self-motivate," Mackanin said. "That's the kind of guys we're looking for that you don't have to motivate. They motivate themselves. Hopefully, he's one of those guys.

"The test will be three, four years down the road, if and when he has some success that he continues to play like that and not fall into that trap."

And with the Phillies in rebuilding mode, Williams is starting to look like one of the players who could make up the nucleus of the next generation of winners.

Jeremy Hellickson tossed five innings of two-run ball but left early with an apparent calf injury. The righty said he is fine and expects to make his next start.

"He looks good," Hellickson said of Williams. "The stage doesn't look too big for him."

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.