How Cubs' Williams hopes to make slider ‘weapon' in 2021


Trevor Williams’ first-inning slider to Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts dipped down and away, catching the outside corner of the right-handed batter’s box.

Strike three.

“It was a good slider,” Williams said after his outing. “It was where we wanted it to go. And he called it a strike. That’s a win.”

Williams, one of several new members of the Cubs starting rotation this season, made his spring training debut on Thursday, throwing two shutout innings against the defending champs. He allowed four singles and no walks, tallying four strikeouts.

Outside of making his first appearance in a Cubs uniform, Thursday offered the 28-year-old an opportunity to bring the work he’s been putting in on that slider into game action. Williams and the Cubs are working on several different grips in the pitch lab with an eye on getting more horizontal movement on the pitch.

By having different shapes to his slider, Williams can better expose individual hitters' weakness, he explained.

“For example, if a hitter has a certain bat path that would be exposed with more of a sweeping slider, then we'll go that way,” he said. 

As far as Thursday goes, Williams said most of the sliders he threw were with the grip he’s most familiar — and comfortable — with, while also throwing some of the variations he’s been working on. He joked how he didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot with a new catcher, Cubs backup Austin Romine.

"It does nobody any good, especially on my first date with Romine, to throw a slider that backs up on him and he didn't know that was going to happen," he said, laughing.

Williams added Thursday’s game offered him good feedback on his work that he can take back to the lab between outings. Ultimately, the game was one step in the process as he looks for the slider to be a big part of his repertoire this season.

“It's something that if utilized correctly can become a weapon for me,” he said.

Gordon Wittenmyer contributed to the reporting of this story.

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