Phillies call up Luke Williams, who won't play for Team USA in Olympics

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Phillies notes: Hot hitter promoted, Howard to start vs. Yankees originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There's an old saying in baseball. If you hit, they'll find a place for you.

In Luke Williams' case, that place is the big leagues.

The Phillies added the 24-year-old infielder/outfielder to their 40-man roster and promoted him to the majors on Tuesday. He was in uniform, wearing No. 30, for Tuesday night's series opener against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Williams took Scott Kingery's place on the 40-man roster. The two players both came out of the 2015 draft, Kingery in the second round out of the University of Arizona and Williams in the third round out of Dana Hills High School in Southern California.

Williams was beaming as he met with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Who could blame him after the week he's had?

"I can't put it into words," he said. "Everyone is still talking about this whole week. It's been one heck of a ride so far. I can't ask for anything more."

Williams spent the last couple of weeks helping Team USA qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. In four games, he hit .444 (8 for 18) with a double, a triple, a homer and six RBIs. He also made a highlight-reel catch in left field that got plenty of national media attention.

Being on the 40-man roster will preclude Williams from participating in the Olympics. As bittersweet as that is, he can handle it.

"Obviously, being on a major-league team is a goal of mine for my whole life, something I've always dreamed of," he said. "The Olympics is obviously peak performance, the best of the best. It would've been great to be in the Olympics, to go to Japan, but I'll take this."

Williams' path to the big leagues started with a swing adjustment that he made while playing at Double A Reading in 2019. That led to a strong second half. He spent time at the alternate site last summer and played in Australia this winter. This season, he hit .352 with a .904 OPS in 18 games at Triple A before joining Team USA.

"In 2019, I lowered my hands," Williams said. "I start with my hands at my shoulder and it was just a thing to get my hands back every single time. My hands used to go all over the place. I didn't know where they were. This is a better firing position. From then, it was a mental approach. Working on what I need to do to succeed and I found it for now."

Williams projects as a super-utility man. He can play any infield or outfield position. He gives manager Joe Girardi a right-handed bat off the bench. Otherwise, the Phillies' bench, as currently constructed, is lefty heavy.

Girardi received a glowing scouting report on Williams from the Team USA manager, a World Series winner from Delaware County.

"I got a note from Mike Scioscia about how well he played and how he did things right," Girardi said. "He's a Mike Scioscia type of player. He's real versatile. He can run and do a lot of different things. I've always considered Mike one of the best managers in the game, so coming from him, it's quite a compliment."

OTHER MOVES

In addition to Williams, the Phillies activated pitchers Chase Anderson and David Hale. They had been on the COVID list.

Reliever Brandon Kintzler, who allowed four hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning Sunday, was placed on the IL with a neck strain.

Pitcher Cristopher Sanchez was optioned to Triple A. Infielder Nick Maton was optioned on Sunday.

HEALTH CHECK

Ronald Torreyes remains at shortstop while Didi Gregorius completes his recovery from a bone bruise on his right elbow.

"We feel pretty good about where Didi is at and where he's going so hopefully we get him back — I'm not saying this series or even the next, but hopefully we get him back pretty soon after that," Girardi said, adding that Gregorius could start playing in minor-league games this week.

HOWARD ON SATURDAY

Girardi said Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez would start Saturday and Sunday, respectively, against the Yankees.

Howard did not make it out of the third inning in his last start and has had trouble holding his fastball velocity after the first couple of innings, but, for now, the Phillies remain committed to using him in the rotation. Howard has pitched just a total of 9⅓ innings in three starts and Ranger Suarez has relieved him in all three. The Phils have won two of those games.

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