ALLENTOWN -- When the Phillies told outfielder Nick Williams on Sunday morning that he was being optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley, he said he was floored.
“I didn’t leave crazy mad; I left there shocked,” Williams said Wednesday, before Lehigh Valley’s game against the Syracuse Mets at Coca-Cola Park.
Williams had 72 hours to report to the Phillies’ triple-A affiliate, and he did so Wednesday afternoon. He had gone home to Austin, Texas, spent time with his fiancée, Brittany, and his dog, and tried to deal with the frustrating news.
He wasn’t in the IronPigs’ starting lineup, but manger Gary Jones said Williams would start Thursday in the series finale.
“When I left Philly, ego, whatever, that is out the window, but, in my mind, it is weird,” Williams said. “I feel like, in my mind, you have to earn [a] triple-A [demotion], so it is kind of weird, especially with a lot of people struggling.”
After the Phillies signed former MVP outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper in the offseason, Williams knew his playing time would be reduced dramatically.
In 65 plate appearances this season, he was hitting .180 with one home run, four RBIs, and a .493 OPS.
Williams, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade on July 31, 2015, looked at last year’s stats at a similar juncture, and they were nearly identical: .203, with one home run, five RBIs, and a .565 OPS.
“That bothered me, to be honest. I thought it was still insanely early … .”
The one difference was that he had 65 plate appearances by May 6. This year, it took him until May 17.
Williams rebounded well last year, finishing at .256 with 17 home runs, 50 RBIs, and a .749 OPS in 448 plate appearances.
In 2017, after beginning the season at Lehigh Valley, Williams hit .288 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs, and an .811 OPS in 343 plate appearances for the Phillies.
One of his mentors with the Phillies has been McCutchen, who kept in touch since the news broke.
“He was really shocked,” Williams said of McCutchen. “He was telling me, ‘Don’t quit.’ He was like, ‘You are a great player, a young guy, an everyday player … .' ”
Williams’ new manager offered some basic advice before Wednesday’s game.
“The one thing he can control is go out and play and have fun," Jones said, "and that is my No. 1 goal for Nick while he is here right now -- to go out and play and have fun.”
Even if he returns to the Phillies, his playing time will likely remain limited, unless there is an injury.
Williams said it would not be in his best interest to seek a trade, even though he is back in triple-A, where he already has 779 at-bats in his time with the IronPigs.
Williams was candid when asked whether it would be difficult to muster enthusiasm in the minors.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t want to say it is going to be a breeze; it is going to be tough.”
He vowed to have a positive attitude.
“I am a grinder,” he said. “I have been through adversity since I have been here. I have handled myself well, always handled myself as a pro.”