Scott Williamson Q&A

Ryan Dunleavy of The Courier News and I spent about 15 minutes with the newest addition to the Somerset Patriots, Scott Williamson.  The 1999 National League All-Star and Rookie of the Year won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, and talks about his career and off-season shoulder surgery in depth with us…

You threw a bullpen today…we know you had surgery before the start of the season.  Can you tell us about that and how you feel now?

“I had shoulder surgery on March 2nd. I’ve been in Arizona rehabbing and training at Athletes Performance for about nine weeks. It feels good, man. I feel a little sluggish today because I drove 11 hours here (from Cincinnati, Ohio), but other than that I feel good. I feel healthy.”

“I’m healthy. It doesn’t hurt anymore, it feels good. I finished the season with (Newark). (The shoulder) has probably been like that for a year and a half or so. I’ve just been trying to battle through it. I was throwing for some teams this offseason, and I just kind of had the same situation popping back up, so I decided to go ahead and have the surgery. It was a minimal surgery, it only took about 15 minutes. It was just a clean out, they did PRP injections and the tear is gone now. I can go out there and throw without pain. It feels good.”

“I wouldn’t be playing anymore if I didn’t have the surgery. It was getting to the point where I was having trouble throwing back to back days, and I couldn’t sleep at night. I was taking medications for it, and it was just a bad, bad roller coaster. I took the chance of having the surgery since it was such a minimal surgery. If it was something that had to be repaired, I’d have just retired and called it a day. But I had the surgery and went to Arizona and trained. I had to do something like that since I missed spring training for the first time in my whole career. I had to do something that would get my body in shape, so I trained and rehabbed at the same time. Now, I just need to come out here and play. I need to get in game situations.”

How difficult was it to pitch through pain for the past year and a half or two?

“I’ve (pitched through pain) so much in my career, it’s not fun, man. It’s hard to be competitive every day when you know that it hurts like that. There were times when I had to take five or six days off in Newark, which wasn’t fair to Rock and those guys. But they were very understanding of the situation and did everything they could. I’m very grateful for what they did in Newark for me. It was aggrevating and just a terrible roller coaster. For me to pitch more in my career, I knew I had to have this done.”

You mentioned you enjoyed it in Newark…how did you end up with Somerset?

“This is a great ballpark, I enjoyed coming here and playing and seeing all the fans and all that. Newark was great. Rock was awesome. Karkovice was a great guy. Willie Banks, the pitching coach now, I had a great time with him. I just think a lot of the guys I played with last year moved on, they’re either not playing anymore or they just went somewhere else. It’s kind of a new scenery situation. I had a great time there, they were very accomodating. I had a great time with Armando and all those guys. I decided to come here. It’s a good opportunity having Sparky and Brett, I just thought it would be a better opportunity in the sense of coming back, rehabbing wise. They really did’t have a spot for me there in Newark in the spot that I wanted to be pitched in. Somerset is a great place to play. I needed fans and some adrenaline. It’s hard to get adrenaline when you only have a few hundred people in the stands.”

Any idea what role you’ll be used in here?

“I’ll probably be used at the end of the bullpen or something like that. I’ve done that whole my career. But it’s up to Sparky and them, he’s the manager. Right now, I just need to go out there and play baseball and get out there in game situations. Talking to them, they’re going to put them in game situations. I think that’s the opportunity I need to be in. I’m pretty much going to have to tell them when not to pitch. Being healthy, you want to play. I’m really excited about it, actually, because last year I wanted to play. My mind want to play. But body wasn’t letting me play as much as I wanted to to play.”

A lot of people remember you from that season you had in 1999, where you won the National League Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star team.  Did everything just kind of come together that year?

“It was a good year. I got drafted out of Oklahoma State in ’97 and played about a month and half in Rookie ball and went right to Double-A the next year. I pitched well as a starter and so then I went to Triple-A and up to the big-leagues.”

“It was a younger team. We had some great veterans … but most of the team was a younger team. Probably one of the best clubhouses I was a part of in Boston. It was just a lot of energy and things coming together for me. I had a lot of good guys that kind of mentored me that year – Stan Belinda, Scott Sullivan, Danny Graves – Guys that really showed me how to be a reliever. A lot of people don’t realize I was a starter. I didn’t realy understand what relieving was and those guys kind of took me under their wing and helped me out; get myself ready for a game situation, coming in with guys on base, you can’t throw the forkball every time because the guy will come home from third base. It was a learning experience, I had a lot of great guys to tutor me and they were kind of the behind the scenes reasons.”

You were also with the Red Sox in 2003 and 2004, which was interesting time in their history…

“It was a lot of fun. It was almost more fun in ’03 but to win a World Series and break a curse it was a lot of fun. To come back against the Yankees like we did, being three games down, was incredible. …”

You were in the first six games of the ALCS, but Grady Little stuck with Pedro Martinez in Game 7…do you ever think about what would have happened if you got in that game?

“That’s one of those situations that didn’t work out the way it was supposed to work out. You’ve got Pedro Martinez out there, who was clutch for us the whole year. The time I was there in ’03, he was clutch and he’s your big dog and he’s an unbelievable guy to play with – he helped me out a lot with my sinker. He’s one of the best superstars I ever played with. We didn’t feel like we were in trouble or anything. We were really relaxed when Pedro was out there. He went 0-2 on pretty much every one of those guys and if he could’ve put them away it would’ve been a different story.”

“A lot of times in that situation – in postseason Game 6, 7 – a starter gives up a hit or something and he’s out of the game. Then you start using every guy for one hitter, and that didn’t really happen. That’s something about Grady Little that I respect a lot. He stood behind people.”

“There was a stretch where my wife was real sick in ’03. I got traded over two days after my son was born and my wife had a really tough pregnancy. They let me take three days off before I had to meet the team. I went over there and I did well for probably about the first week or so and then my son got real sick and my wife got real sick and I went out there for about a week or so and got killed. I just mentally did not want to be out there.”

“Grady came out and said, ‘Man, you’re not here. We’ve got to get you out of here.’ And I’m thinking he means get me out of the game and he wanted to get me out to go back with my family. (General manager) Theo (Epstein) pulled me aside and said, ‘We traded for you. We know what you’re about. We’ve still got confidence in you.’ And a guy named Tony Kloninger pulled me aside. Those guys helped me and were like, ‘Scott, you’re not only a ballplayer, you’re a person, too. With what you’re going through off the field, it’s going to be hard to play out there. Whatever you need is what we’re going to do.’ By them giving me that confidence, I ended up just rambling off the end of that season just unbelievable.’”

“It was a lot of fun with the Cowboy Up and all that stuff that was going in ’03. It was a lot more fun with that stuff than ’04.”

“I had major elbow problems and my elbow was gone probably about midseason (in 2004). It unraveled. It hurt so bad to pitch but I took cortisone shots and did everything I could for that last month and a half of the season.”

“I had to take more cortisone shots just to go out for the postseason. It was my decision. I went in there and told him, ‘I don’t want to go out there and I can’t pitch and you be one man down. You’ve got a five-game series and if I go down in the first game you’re down a guy.’ I didn’t think it was going to be fair to that team to do that to them. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make as a player because you want to be in that situation. That’s what you (live) for. It was so much fun the year before and to take yourself out of that equation was really hard. I almost went into a depression from it. But I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do to that team.”

He talked to a doctor who told him if he kept taking cortisone shots he might not ever pitch again…

“I went to Anaheim – that’s when I told them I couldn’t do it – and then I went home and had Tommy John Surgery for the second time. It was tough. I was sitting in a chair rooting for my team but I didn’t feel like I was part of the team in a sense. That’s why I didn’t go back for the parade and things like that. It was kind of bitter but it was a situation where I thought I made the right decision.”

You’ve come back from injuries before, does the experience of those and missing the World Series in 2004 make coming back from this a little easier?

“I feel really good about this one. The second Tommy John I came back too soon … and I just think it put way too much stress on my shoulder. And I think that later is on is what happened to my shoulder.”

“I’m only 34. A lot of people might think that’s getting up there in age but I’ve got a lot left in my arm because the last couple years I really haven’t pitched that much. I’ve had some rest. I think the biggest thing from injuries is you try to play and your body won’t let it happen. I tried to play last year and it just wouldn’t happen for me.”

“It’s hard to go out there and worry about hitters and having fun when you’re worried about having fun. That’s probably the toughest part of it – having that fire and adrenaline. Now to go out and just throw it feels normal again. You kind of lose that normal feeling.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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One Response to “Scott Williamson Q&A”

  1. DanRodriguez Says:

    Good work! Good sign as well. Hey, Mike, I kind of expected more of an influx of players from the Mexican League now their season is almost over. Any thoughts on why that isn’t the case? I think every team could use pitching.

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