Williams left to wonder what's wrong

Williams left to wonder what's wrong

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Woody Williams said his outing on Wednesday against the Tigers "left me scratching my head," but confusion could turn to panic if the veteran right-hander doesn't start producing better numbers during the Grapefruit League season.

Williams allowed eight runs, including four homers, over three innings during the Astros' 11-4 loss to the Tigers. The outing elevated Williams' spring ERA to 15.26, spanning three starts.

Although Williams is guaranteed $6.25 million in 2008, which would complete a two-year, $12.5 million contract he signed in 2006, financial commitments may not be enough to keep him in the rotation. He was told when Spring Training began that he was going to have to earn his spot in the rotation, but judging from his last two outings, he may have cause for worry.

Manager Cecil Cooper admitted after Wednesday's game he was "a little bit" concerned about Williams' performance this month.

"I know they hit good pitches today, but we're catching too much of the plate," Cooper said. "I want him to throw strikes and go after the hitters, but you still have to make pitches on them. That's a pretty good [Tigers] lineup. You have to chalk it up a little bit to the lineup. And the first home run was kind of a wind job. But they put some pretty good swings out there, too."

Williams said he had no qualms about the quality of the slider he threw to Ivan Rodriguez that the Tigers catcher hit for a homer in the second inning. Williams also defended several other pitches that were hit out of the ballpark.

"I'm disappointed that I gave up all the runs. I'm not disappointed with the way I threw the ball," Williams said. "For someone to look at that and say, 'Oh, he must have had a bad day.' ... Numbers-wise, I had a terrible day. When they hit pitches you want to throw, there's nothing you can do except tip your hat and try to get the next guy out."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.