Williams eager to get started with Chicago Cubs' pitching lab

Former Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams seems thrilled to be wearing a Cubs uniform now, for multiple reasons.

One is he grew up in a Cubs household. He was born in San Diego, but his father is from Chicago.

"He is a die-hard Cubs fan," Williams said Friday on a Zoom call with reporters. "He loves the Cubs; he's always loved the Cubs. I have pictures of myself in Cubs Onesies when I was younger. I was a Cubs fan by family, but I grew up in San Diego and became more of a Padres fan. But we still have a lot of family there. My grandma called me immediately and offered her two-bedroom house to my family of five."

Another reason Williams is happy to be in the blue pinstripes is he thinks the Cubs' coaching staff is equipped to help him find his old form. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was really good for Pittsburgh in 2018, going 14-10 with a 3.11 ERA.

But he took a step back after that season. Last year he was 2-8 with a 6.18 ERA and led the National League in home runs allowed with 15 in 11 starts.

"A change of scenery is sometimes always good, different eyeballs are sometimes good," Williams said. "Even Day One after we signed, getting some information from (pitching coach) Tommy (Hottovy) on what they see, what their department sees. Tomorrow I have a bullpen and pitching lab (scheduled), so I'm excited to get into that and learn more and grow as a pitcher."

Williams, 28, already had a few thoughts on what went wrong after such a promising start with the Pirates.

"The biggest difference is getting away from what made me a good pitcher," he said. "I lost my identity, I lost a sense of what made me good in terms of pitch selection, execution. Last year, especially, is a year I'm not going to forget. It's a year that I've put behind me, but it's a year I'm not going to forget in the sense that I don't want that to happen again.

"I know what I need to do to have that not happen again. I know the steps to take. They seem so simple because most of the time these fixes are really simple at the end of the day. But I'm excited to grow from that, I'm excited to hear what Tommy and the staff have to say."

Williams felt an injury in 2019 set him on the wrong path, to where he needs to break down his delivery and preparation to get back to his old form.

Having pitched in the same division for several years, there is plenty of familiarity from both sides. Williams went 4-7 with a 5.67 ERA in 11 starts against the Cubs.

"I've been pitching against them for a couple of years now. I was tired of pitching against them," he said. "I think they're a World Series-winning lineup, and that respect has never been lost.

"You always now on any day they're world champs and they're going to dominate you when they can. It was always a tough matchup against them, even last year."

And an underrated part of joining a new team in 2021 is everyone wearing masks.

"It is interesting. I've gotten real good at the eyeball smile," Williams said. "I felt like a new kid at school for the first time, but I didn't have the ability to stand in front of the class and introduce myself and shake everybody's hand.

"I think once we get the last names on our jersey, once we start putting uniforms on, I think it will be a little bit easier."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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