Williams to make first MLB start Saturday

No. 27 prospect will pitch in second half of doubleheader vs. Reds

Williams to make first MLB start Saturday

PHILADELPHIA -- For a few minutes in the Citizens Bank Park bullpen on Wednesday night, Trevor Williams prepared for his third relief appearance for the Pirates. Now, he's getting ready for his first Major League start.

Williams, the Pirates' No. 27 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, will start the second half of the Pirates' doubleheader against the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Saturday, manager Clint Hurdle announced Thursday. The decision came down to Williams or right-hander Drew Hutchison, depending entirely on who was needed out of the bullpen in Wednesday night's 6-2 loss to the Phillies.

"I'm excited, obviously. Ready to go," Williams said. "It's been kind of weird adjusting to the reliever role, but I did as best I could in that sense. I'm ready to go on Saturday and hopefully get another shot."

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Williams warmed up first during Wednesday's game, but he sat down and Hutchison wound up pitching two innings. That left Williams available for Saturday, when he will start the nightcap after Jameson Taillon pitches the 12:10 p.m. ET opener.

"There was a touch and feel to it depending on if he came in or the game went a different way, whether Hutchison came in," Hurdle said. "It was pretty much decided at that point if he enters the game, here's where we're going."

Williams has made two relief appearances since being called up by the Pirates, allowing four runs on seven hits in four innings. He pitched well as a starter for Triple-A Indianapolis, putting together a 1.50 ERA in 78 innings over his last 13 outings. He hasn't thrown more than 55 pitches since his last start on Sept. 1, but he believes his arm is still strong enough to pitch deep into the game.

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"We'll see how it goes. We're going to take it an inning at a time," he said. "Being up in September, there's a lot of guys that can cover innings if we need to. I'm just going to take it one inning at a time. I'd like to go nine, but we'll get through the first first, and then go from there."

Batman returns
The Pirates were greeted by a familiar, friendly face behind the batting cage Thursday afternoon: A.J. Burnett. The former Pittsburgh and Philadelphia starter made the trip with his sons to Citizens Bank Park from his Maryland home to catch up with his former Bucs teammates, giving plenty of hugs and holding court during batting practice.

Burnett was beloved in Pittsburgh for his pitching and his attitude, which also made him a leader in the Pirates' clubhouse in 2012-13 and '15. Last year, Burnett went 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA and made the All-Star team for the first and only time in his 17-year Major League career.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.