Originally created 11/10/99

Plenty of uncertainty for Williamson



CINCINNATI -- Scott Williamson gets a lot of enjoyment out of looking back on his rookie season. There's only uncertainty when he starts thinking about his follow-up year.

Will he be a reliever or starter? How will he do with his best friend gone from the team? Will he even be a member of the Cincinnati Reds?

"I love Cincinnati," Williamson said. "It would be hard to leave a team that shows you so much respect."

Williamson, 23, was so impressive in 1999 that he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday. He's also earned a lot of attention from other teams.

The Reds are trying to trade for Ken Griffey Jr., a hometown favorite who would give the Reds a higher profile. The Reds would have to send Seattle some of their young players in return, and Williamson's name has been mentioned in trade speculation.

"I have noticed it," he said. "It's been brought to my attention. If I get traded for a guy like that along with other players, I guess you've got to take it as an honor to be traded for the No. 1 guy of the decade.

"My home is in Cincinnati. I hope I don't get traded. If I do, I'll have to start over and go to Seattle and make the best of it."

Williamson's rookie season was the result of his ability to make the best of a major change. He showed up for training camp as a nonroster player with two years of professional experience as a starter.

He survived one cut after another with his fastball and split-finger pitch, but there was no room in the rotation. The Reds asked him to try relieving for the first time in his career.

"I said, 'Whatever will help me get to the majors fastest,"' Williamson said.

He had the most dominating season by a rookie reliever in the NL, going 12-7 with a 2.41 ERA and 19 saves on a team that made an unexpected run at the playoffs largely because of its bullpen.

Williamson credits reliever Stan Belinda with helping him make the transition to major league player and reliable relief pitcher.

"The biggest thing this year for a rookie coming into a major league clubhouse was for a guy like that to take me under his wing," Williamson said. "I wouldn't be receiving this award if it wasn't for him."

Belinda was traded to Colorado along with Jeffrey Hammonds for Dante Bichette on Oct. 30. The trade came shortly after the Reds had decided to pick up the option year on Belinda's contract.

"It really broke my heart just to know he's not going to be there next year," Williamson said. "When they resigned him, I thought a big burden was lifted off my shoulders. A week later, he gets traded."

Through his agent, Belinda declined to comment on Williamson.

There's one more uncertainty ahead for Williamson. The Reds aren't sure whether they'll use him as a reliever or make him a starter again next season. Their main goal in the offseason is to improve the rotation on a limited budget.

"I don't think we've come to any conclusion," manager Jack McKeon said. "We know he can go either way. It's a matter that when you get your staff settled if it came down to that, we'd discuss it with him. Right now, who knows?"

Williamson said he doesn't care how he's used next season.

"My arm could handle either," he said. "All through my career I've been a starter, so my arm is adapted to that role."