CLEVELAND (AP) — Guardians manager Terry Francona didn’t get to do much scouting of top pitching prospect Gavin Williams during spring training in Arizona.

He was forbidden.

“Don’t think they wanted me to,” Francona cracked on Tuesday. “They were afraid I might want to bring him with us.”

Williams is in Cleveland now, and the hard-throwing right-hander, who has quickly risen through the organization’s minor league system, will make his major league debut Wednesday night with a start against the Oakland Athletics.

A first-round draft pick in 2021, the 23-year-old Williams has overpowered hitters the past two seasons and now he and the Guardians will get to see whether he can dominate in the majors.

One day before his debut, Williams was still coming to grips with his promotion.

“I have no words for it,” he said. “I really don’t know how to describe it right now.”

Williams has gone 4-2 with a 2.39 ERA combined at Double-A Akron (three starts) and Triple-A Columbus (nine starts). He struck out 81 batters in 60 innings. Last season, Williams struck out 149 in 115 innings.

It was only a matter of time before he joined Cleveland, and the Guardians believe he’s ready to make his biggest jump yet.

“Everything happens quickly,” he said. “It’s nice to move up pretty quick, but you don’t really want to look forward. You want to just stay in the present moment, really be where your feet are. That’s what I’ve been told all through college and that’s what I’ve been doing. Not looking forward too much.”

With starters Triston McKenzie (elbow) and Cal Quantrill (shoulder) on the injured list, the Guardians have an opportunity to get a look at Williams, who pitched in college at East Carolina. McKenzie is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Williams’ arrival could signal a changing of the guard in Cleveland. He’s potentially the staff’s next ace, but Francona cautioned there could be growing pains first.

“Getting Gavin here is very exciting for us,” he said. “This start tomorrow, I say it every time. It won’t define whether he is going to the Hall of Fame or going back to A ball, but we’re excited to watch him and to watch him grow because, because he will.”

After being told he was joining the Guardians, Williams called his mom, who was understandably overjoyed.

“She started screaming about two seconds into the phone call, so I don’t really know what happened after that,” Williams said.

He’s expecting a sizable contingent of family members to see his MLB debut.

“Probably the whole state of North Carolina,” he said.


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