Mon Aug 22 05:30am EDT
And now, after trying to salvage his career overseas and with independent teams, Williams suddenly finds himself counted upon in a pennant race.
With his fastball sitting at 92-93 mph, Williams struck out six, allowed six hits and no walks to earn his first victory since Sept. 25, 2005 — a mere 2,156 days earlier — when he played for the Cubs.
The turn of events nearly brought the 29-year-old to tears.
"I feel like crying," Williams said while his 2-year-old son, Tai, sat perched in a folding chair next to him with the game ball in his hands. "It's been a long road. I'm just speechless. There was so much emotion out there. Being away from the game for a long time, I dedicated this to my mother and my family."
"He's got a lot of baseball left in him if he keeps pitching like that," Scioscia said.
A first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1999, Williams reached professional ball at age 17. He compiled a 3.92 ERA in 63 starts from 2003-05, but began struggling with injuries, weight problems and ineffectiveness.
Between 2006 and the first part of this season, Williams spent time with five major league organizations, two independent teams and one in Taiwan — where he pitched in 2010.
He has looked there, and to his family, for inspiration.
"When I was in Taiwan last year, I never thought I would be here right now playing here," said Williams, who uses a pink glove to honor his late mother, who died of breast cancer 10 years ago. "I was thinking about quitting, but I forced myself not to. My family helped me out and told me to just keep on going and never give up. And it paid off."
In June, the Angels signed him out of the independent Atlantic League, where he played for a team called the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers. A fitting nickname.
After 10 starts with the Angels' Triple-A team, the big club called him up. He made a relief appearance Wednesday to get his feet wet for his first start since 2007, when he pitched for Washington and his fastball only reached the upper 80s.
"He just re-created himself," Hunter said. "He's throwing two-seamers, cutters. He's not throwing the straight fastball anymore. He's keeping the ball down and it seemed like he just learned how to pitch."
As vocations go, pitching is what Williams has to offer the world.
"Baseball is all I know," he said. "Baseball is my life."