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After trade to Cincinnati and back, Case Williams finding a groove in 2022

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Two summers ago, Case Williams experienced the excitement that comes with being drafted straight out of high school by the hometown club.

But it didn’t take long for that storybook feeling to fade, and for the unpredictable business of baseball to begin.

The Douglas County product was traded to the Reds before even throwing a single pitch for the Rockies organization. Then Bill Schmidt undid ex-GM Jeff Bridich’s trade last summer, bringing Williams back to Colorado in a deadline deal.

“It was a crazy experience,” Williams recalled. “It was a roller-coaster ride, especially coming so early in my career, but it was good for me as a person and as a pitcher. I’m happy to be back with the Rockies.”

Williams is pitching like he’s feeling right at home with Low-A Fresno. After scuttling to a 5.73 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) between the Cincinnati and Colorado organizations last year, he’s found a groove in 2022.

The 20-year-old is 3-1 in eight starts with a 3.50 ERA. Williams has turned in five straight quality starts, including tying a career high with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in his outing on Wednesday in Modesto.

Williams said this year’s success is a result of weathering the uncertainty and adversity in the early part of his career.

“Last year was more about survival than anything — learning to survive in the minor league lifestyle and figure out what’s really going on here,” Williams said. “I was still figuring out what worked best for me and my routine. I was able to learn from that, and change to this year where I can really play instead of just getting through it.”

Colorado originally selected the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) in 2020. The Rockies shipped him and right-hander Jeff Hoffman to Cincinnati on Nov. 25, 2020, in exchange for right-hander Robert Stephenson and outfield prospect Jameson Hannah. Williams then came back to Colorado in a July 28, 2021, deal that also brought right-hander Noah Davis in exchange for right-hander Mychal Givens.

Williams’ arsenal features a fastball (90-94 mph), change-up (82-85), curve (upper 70s) and slider (82-85). If he keeps pitching as he has, a promotion to High-A Spokane this summer is within reason. Rockies farm director Chris Forbes said Williams is “showing a great deal of confidence and conviction in what he is doing right now.”

“I’m getting a lot of swing-and-miss on my slider lately,” Williams said. “But more than anything, I’m learning to adjust more outing-to-outing and pitch-to-pitch, and the mental side has been more consistent this year so far overall. I’m playing to have fun, going out there knowing my stuff plays and I’ve been able to just pitch. A lot of development has happened (since draft day).”

Lou Gehrig Day. Thursday marked the second annual Lou Gehrig Day across baseball. It also brought on a whirlwind of emotions for Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard, whose father, Jim, passed away from ALS last September.

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