A day after Nevin decided to stay with San Diego by rejecting a trade to Baltimore, Williams makes his first appearance against the team he helped take to the 2004 World Series when the slumping Padres open a three-game set with the Cardinals.
As well as facing his former team for the first time, Williams will be opposed by the man who replaced him in St. Louis’ rotation, Mark Mulder.
He could also face Nevin, who on Monday night exercised his limited no-trade clause that allowed him to block an agreed-upon trade to the Orioles. The Padres would have received right-hander Sidney Ponson.
“Phil has elected to stay with the Padres and will be treated as a full member of the team,” Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. “However, with the team competing for the National League West title, playing time is going to be determined by both his performance and the performances of other players that will ultimately give us the best chance to win.”
Nevin, who had until about an hour before Tuesday’s game to exercise his right to refuse the trade, could have rejected a deal with seven other teams. Nevin also nixed a trade to Cincinnati for Ken Griffey Jr. in December 2002.
“It’s pretty clear this is where he wants to be,” Towers said of Nevin, who is batting .263 with nine home runs, 11 doubles and 47 RBIs in 71 games.
Williams didn’t get a phone call from the Cardinals during the offseason as they let him sign a free-agent deal with the Padres, but he understood St. Louis’ situation and remains friendly with many members of the organization.
The 38-year-old right-hander started Game 1 of all three rounds of the postseason last year, and teammates voted him the Darryl Kile award winner for clubhouse leadership. A Williams jersey still hangs in manager Tony La Russa’s office.
Williams would have started in St. Louis during San Diego’s visit there in early May, but was hurt in batting practice two days before the series was to begin.
While Williams is coming off his first loss since June 16, Mulder hasn’t lost since June 22 and has more than capably filled Williams’ spot all season. The Cardinals have won each of his last five starts as the left-hander, acquired from Oakland during the offseason, has gone 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA.
Now Williams hopes to not only beat the pitcher who replaced him, but to help San Diego end its season-worst seven-game losing streak.
The Padres remain atop the NL West despite the slide, though another loss would drop them to .500 for the first time since May 4.
“Seven (losses) in a row, it’s a joke,” San Diego starter Brian Lawrence said. “We’ve got to figure something out quick. It’s frustrating. We’re in first place, but we’re hanging by a thread.”
The Cardinals aren’t, maintaining a big lead in the NL Central even though Chicago and Houston have played better in recent weeks. St. Louis dropped the final two games of its weekend series with the Cubs, and would equal its longest losing streak of the season with a defeat Tuesday.