FORT MYERS, Fla. - Two of the 30 games on the Phillies' Grapefruit League schedule require a two-plus-hour drive from Clearwater to Fort Myers. Those trips came in the same week.
Jerome Williams started both games.
Neither went particularly well.
Williams, who will open the season as the No. 3 or 4 starter, allowed a combined 19 hits and eight earned runs over seven innings of his two latest starts. The journeyman righthander threw a spring-high 95 pitches Saturday but logged just four innings in the Phillies' 7-1 loss to Minnesota.
Williams said he feels fine. Earlier this spring, he missed 10 days because of a tweaked hamstring. His velocity was down in last Sunday's start against the Boston Red Sox. The Hammond Stadium radar gun showed his fastball from 88 to 91 m.p.h. Saturday, an improvement over his last start.
"Right now, my arm is getting right back to where it needs to be," Williams said, "and hopefully by the time the season starts it's going to be where it was last year."
Two of the six runs Williams allowed Saturday were unearned because of fielding errors by Cesar Hernandez and Cord Phelps. Joe Mauer anticipated Williams' 2-0 change-up in the fourth inning and launched it into the right-field stands.
"He's just a little off with his command," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's just not as sharp as he wants to be, and that's resulting in some balls over the plate and also a lot of pitches thrown, longer counts than he would want."
Williams, 33, could start one more game - he is in line for Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays - before the team heads north Thursday night. The Phillies could instead hold him out for Saturday night's exhibition game, putting him on pace to start the third game of the season. David Buchanan, who will start a minor-
league game Sunday, is another option to start Saturday and then the April 9 finale of the season-opening series against Boston.