Phillies

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Outfielder Nick Williams has been playing in the spring like he's on a mission to make the big leagues, according to manager Pete Mackanin.

Williams took one step closer Monday as he showed he can generate runs with his bat and take them away with his glove.

Brock Stassi and Williams hit solo home runs but starter Jeremy Hellickson gave up five runs in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to the Orioles.

Williams' catch, however, was the story of the game as he robbed Logan Schafer of a sure home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Williams made a full extension and reached his glove over the wall to bring the ball back in.

"That play was, 'Wow,'" Mackanin gushed.

Williams said it was an adrenaline rush as he tried to track the ball to the right field wall and it felt better than any walk-off home run he's ever hit.

"I took off with my head down expecting it to be a close play at the wall," Williams said. "I saw where the wall was and jumped. It was going over. I felt it in my glove, I saw myself catch it. I came down and I think I looked like, 'All right, I did it.' It felt like a wide receiver going for a jump ball."

It was a tough offseason for Williams after he failed to get called up following a rough finish to his season in Triple A. His slash line in Lehigh Valley of .258/.287/.427 was disappointing, as were the 136 strikeouts and only 20 walks.

He admits he may have tried too hard last season (see story) and this year he's more focused on being consistent and showing up to the park ready to play.

"Last year, I tried to make the majors so bad and it didn't work out for me," Williams said. "This year, I just wanted to polish up on everything -- offense, defense and just be a consistent player."

Williams is hitting .364 (8 for 22) in the spring with a double and a home run. He's struck out five times but also has managed a couple of walks.

"I think he was probably disappointed in himself last year, having a bad month the last month," Mackanin said. "He's really been playing with energy and a positive attitude, so showing he's put [last year] behind him."

Hellickson starts strong, fades
Hellickson struck out six of the first eight batters he faced but ran into some trouble in the third inning when he gave up a solo shot to Caleb Joseph.

In the fourth inning, the Orioles tagged him for four runs, including a three-run homer from Joey Rickard.

Hellickson gave up four hits and five runs in four innings. He also walked two and threw 76 pitches in the outing.

"He was fine, he was cruising a bit," Mackanin said. "He just hung a changeup for the first one and on the three-run home run, he tried to throw a sinker in to a right-hander and left it out over the plate.

"[He] changed speeds well, located well, just made two mistakes that hurt him, especially the one with a couple of men on."

Hellickson is ahead of schedule at this point with four starts under his belt and three weeks of spring remaining. He said he'll probably take at least one extra day off between starts and finish his spring with a three-inning stint.

Phillies option 5 more
Right-handers Drew Anderson, Alberto Tirado and Victor Arano, left-hander Elniery Garcia and outfielder Dylan Cozens were all optioned to minor-league camp. The Phillies have 53 players remaining in major-league camp.

Up next
Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff will look to improve on his 7.88 ERA this spring against the Braves on Tuesday. Atlanta will start Aaron Blair. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. on TCN.