Jerome Williams battles case of nerves

It would be one thing if Jerome Williams were just facing the New York Yankees for the first time in his career.

It would be manageable if he were simply making his Yankee Stadium debut. But did the game have to be at prime time on ESPN, and did it have to coincide with Jackie Robinson Day? All of it put together had Williams feeling "anxious," in his own words, about making his season debut tonight.

"Just the magnitude here and the significance of the day, too, it's pretty nerve-wracking," Williams said. "I've got to calm my nerves down and go out there and pitch."

In a way, Williams is going directly from Single-A ball to the Bronx since his first two starts were on a minor-league rehab assignment. He likely will be on a short pitch count tonight since he'll be making just his fifth start since the beginning of spring training. He missed three weeks of camp with a strained hamstring, getting back just in time to fend off a charge for the fifth-starter spot from rookie Garrett Richards.

So, as nervous as he'll be, Williams also recognizes the accomplishment of just getting on the mound tonight. He hasn't been on a major-league roster in April since 2007. In the interim, he has pitched all over the globe -- from Taiwan to Mexico to Puerto Rico to Venezuela -- and he's still only 30.

"I'm just happy I'm back," Williams said.