PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur has seen a lot of innings.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Perreira)
Sauveur spent 18 years as a professional pitcher – including parts of 5 seasons in the big leagues – and his teammates included Randy Johnson, Dennis Martinez, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Tim Hudson, and Barry Zito.
In his 9 seasons as a pitching coach, Sauveur has worked with the likes of Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, and Felix Doubront.
That’s why his description of a June 4th outing by PawSox relief pitcher Randy Williams really caught my ear.
“It was the most dominant inning that I’ve ever seen,” Sauveur said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys strike the side out, but I saw swings against him in that inning that looked like little league hitters against a major league pitcher.”
(Photos of Randy Williams courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
That night in Durham, Williams struck out the side in the 8th inning on 11 pitches that ranged from a 94 mph fastball to a knee-buckling 77 mph curve.
“That’s by far the best inning that I’ve ever had,” Williams said with a smile. “To go out there and throw that many quality pitches consecutively – that’s what you live for and why you come out here and play the game. At my age, you’re not out here to get your 10 years in the big leagues – it’s the competition and to have those nights where you really feel invincible.”
That’s been the norm for the 35-year-old lefty this season as Williams has posted a 0.69 ERA in 11 outings for Pawtucket, with 18 strikeouts in 13 IP.
“His stuff is really good,” said Sauveur. “I think he’s put himself on the radar up in Boston because he’s done a great job so far. Everybody has their ups and downs and he had an outing the other day that wasn’t up to par, but for the most part he’s been very consistent.”
“I’m at that point where I have to do things that I didn’t have to do before to stay in shape and to be ready every day,” Williams said. “But as far as the life on my fastball and how I feel when I’m out there pitching – as I’ve gotten older I’ve actually been able to throw a little bit harder. I actually have better stuff and I’ve started to figure out the game – I hope I get it all figured out before it’s too late.”
Williams has pitched in 90 major league games for four different teams – despite shoulder and elbow injuries that caused him to miss nearly four full seasons early in his professional career.
“I was hurt when I got drafted and missed most of my first two seasons,” Williams said. “I came back from that injury and then I blew out my elbow, had surgery, and got released. After that, I did a lot of construction work and played softball actually to recover from Tommy John surgery. It’s kind of a weird approach, but when they wouldn’t let me play in the infield anymore, I knew that my arm was getting stronger and started to think that maybe I still had a chance.
“In 2002, I went and played independent ball and by the time I was in my first full professional minor league season, I was 27 years old. It kind of puts you behind the 8-ball when you start out that way.”
The injury bug bit again this spring as Randy missed most of April and May with a sore shoulder (read more about his injury here).
“To be perfectly honest with you, when I came off of the disabled list, I didn’t know how much longer I would be with the organization,” Williams said. “For them to stick with me as long as they did – I’m just glad that they gave me an opportunity to show that I’m healthy and to get out there and compete.”
Like another hard-throwing lefty – Andrew Miller – Williams had an out clause in his contract on June 15th, but elected to stay with the Red Sox organization.
“I had been back from the D.L. for a couple of weeks and knowing how they had treated me when I was hurt – I really feel that this is the best place for me,” Williams said. “If you get a chance to play for the Red Sox, that’s an opportunity that’s hard to pass up – especially when it’s an All-Star team up there like it is this year. If you’re going to be in Triple-A and looking to get an opportunity in the big leagues, I can’t imagine a better place to be than here.”
Williams definitely has good enough stuff to help the Red Sox as a left-handed arm in the bullpen at some point this season.
Who knows, he might even provide the most dominant inning that you’ve ever seen.
* * * * *
After going 5-3 on their road trip to Louisville and Indianapolis, the PawSox open a 6-day, 7-game homestand on Tuesday night at 7:05 vs. Rochester.
I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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