LeBlanc, Williams thrilled to make OD roster

LeBlanc, Williams thrilled to make OD roster

MONTREAL, QC -- After Wade LeBlanc walked out of manager Clint Hurdle's office in the bowels of Olympic Stadium late Friday night, he retrieved his phone and messaged his wife. A few lockers away, Trevor Williams' decision to splurge on an international plan for his cell phone was rewarded.

Both men sent the same news to their families: They made the Pirates' Opening Day bullpen. The nod was not a certainty for either pitcher. Williams entered camp competing for a rotation spot, while LeBlanc won out in a crowded race for a spot in the bullpen. 

"It's a lot of hard work, but it's Opening Day. It's not the end of it. It's the beginning," LeBlanc said. "We've still got a long way to go. The goal is to stay there, not to get there."

LeBlanc has grown used to the uncertainty. He made his Major League debut in 2008, but this will be only his second time on an Opening Day roster. He figured his wife, Natalie, was putting their sons Jackson and Eli to bed when he got the news, and he didn't want to make a big deal out of where he starts the season.

LeBlanc strikes out Kendrick

Still, LeBlanc expressed appreciation for the Pirates' belief in him. The lefty played for seven teams in eight big league seasons, spent another in Japan and split last year between Triple-A and the Majors before Pittsburgh gave him a contract with a club option for 2018.

"It's awesome to have an organization that doesn't put a limit on your age, that doesn't see you as this guy that's bounced around," he said. "They see you for who you are, for what you can do for them, and they take you at face value. They gave me a shot last year and again this year. I'm forever grateful."

LeBlanc said he will serve as a "Swiss Army knife" out of the bullpen, though perhaps "Cajun army knife" might be more appropriate given the Louisianan's heritage. His primary role is long relief, a job he will share with Williams.

Whereas LeBlanc is no stranger to Spring Training battles, this was the first time Williams entered camp with a legitimate chance to make a club. He thought his best shot would be as a starter. But the Pirates had mentioned a potential fit in the bullpen on several occasions, so that thought remained in the back of his mind.

Williams was a reliever in the Arizona Fall League and for one season at Arizona State University. He also pitched out of the bullpen in his debut last September. Regardless of his role, Williams is excited about the opportunity to open the season in the Majors.

Williams strikes out six

"It's going to be a blast. It's just so much more glorified that it's in Boston," Williams said. "I don't know how many times I'm going to play at Fenway in my career. To have Opening Day there is insane. It's going to be cool."

Williams' wife, Jackie, will be there with their 1-year-old son, Isaac. They had two flight plans in place: one to Indianapolis, if Williams had been demoted to Triple-A, and another to Boston. Williams' father, Richard, also had a flight booked from San Diego to Boston, just in case Williams shared the good news he finally received Friday night. 

"I'm glad they told me here. I'm glad I bought a Canadian [data] plan so I could call and tell my family I was going to be going to Boston," Williams said. "I'm so happy and so thankful that I get to help the Pirates."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.