CLEARWATER, Fla. — Nick Williams was a wide receiver in high school, good enough to pair up with NFL star Mike Evans at their Texas high school. He was a forward on the basketball team and a star outfielder in baseball. Williams is an athlete, he said on Friday. And an athlete, Williams said. has no problem playing multiple positions.
"I can play anywhere to be honest," Williams said.
The Phillies will not need Williams to play anywhere this season, just any of the three outfield positions. Perhaps Gabe Kapler's most challenging task as manager this season will be finding enough playing time for Williams and Aaron Altherr. The two will receive the majority of their time in right field but will shuffle to left and center when Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins need off. The exact plan has yet to be laid out.
"I don't know what's going to happen about sharing anything," Williams said. "I don't know how that's going to play. They've said they'll be moving players around but who's to say [Altherr] isn't going to play center or anywhere else. I think this game is about performance and last year I performed all year. So I'm not even worried about that. I'm just worried about right now."
It was expected that Williams and Altherr would start the corners this season before the team opted to sign Santana. Hoskins was moved to left field and the Phillies then had three outfielders — Williams, Altherr, and Herrera — for two positions. They opted to hold onto their glut of outfielders instead of trading them. Kapler spoke confidently throughout the winter that playing time would not be an issue.
Williams played 83 games last season and totaled 313 at-bats after reaching the majors in June. Altherr was limited to 107 games last season and 372 at-bats because of a nagging hamstring injury. Perhaps a platoon role could keep Altherr healthy as he has battled injuries throughout his career. It would not be out of reach for Kapler, who is expected to be creative and ever changing with his lineups, to find roughly 300 at-bats for both Altherr and Williams.
"I don't have any problem with it. I'm fine with playing all three. Wherever they want to play me doesn't bother me at all," Altherr said. "They've told me that we'll all get plenty of at-bats and playing time. I don't know how it's all going to work but I'm sure everyone will get plenty of opportunities to get out there."