BRADENTON, Fla. — If Drew Hutchison pitched his way out of the starting rotation on Tuesday night, Trevor Williams might be pitching his way in.

The 24-year-old right-hander pitched four scoreless innings of relief against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday and has finished his Grapefruit League work with ten consecutive scoreless outings. Williams said that he placed extra emphasis on finishing the spring strong, and in a polar opposite to what Hutchison did on Tuesday night, finished with a flourish.

“It’s a the point in camp when you’re really competing for that spot,” he said. “The first few outings, you’re trying to get your fastball behind you. You’re trying to get your rhythm down. You’re trying to get your delivery under your feet. The last few outings, I really made it a goal of mine just to go out and compete and lay it all on the line. I thought I did well in that regard. It’s out of my control. I’d better go out with a bang if it’s out of my control.”

Williams credited his fastball, especially the two-seamer for the positive performance. That, and a reunion with an old friend.

“It was an aggressive fastball,” he said. “I wanted to get ahead of hitters and really establish my fastball down. I felt like we did a great job with that. I threw more sinkers today. It was my first time throwing to Stallings all spring. It was kind of a nice little reunion at the very end. We picked up where we left off last season. It was great to work with him again. He knows what my strengths are. I’m still working things out with Stew and Cervelli. We’re slowly getting on the same page.”

Williams and Tyler Glasnow are the last two battling it out for the No. 5 starter spot, and with the release of right-handed relief pitcher Jared Hughes on Wednesday, it seems that Williams has an inside track to make the opening-day roster, whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen. That has been what he’s working toward all spring.

“I set a very high goal for myself,” he said. “I wanted to pitch at Fenway. There’s not many times, especially playing in the NL Central that you’re going to have a chance to pitch in Fenway. I think everything leading up to there is that expectation. Because I worked really hard this Spring Training. I made a lot of great strides in my delivery and with my pitchability. … But there’s so many guys with talent on and off our roster. There’s talent in our entire minor-league system. The battle for this fifth spot is great. It’s great for the entire team. It’s great for the staff. But at some point, we’re all going to help the Pirates win games.”

COLE TRAIN DERAILED?

Gerrit Cole started and thew three innings while allowing three runs, all via long home runs, including a shot by Aaron Altherr than cleared the batter’s eye in center field. Cole hit 99 on the radar gun during the abbreviated outing, but manager Clint Hurdle said he had some control issues at times.

“I loved his velocity, but there were a couple of misfires with his location,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The curveball played well, the changeup was firm. He was extremely strong today. I think he finished in a very good place.”

HUGHES REACTION

The Pirates released reliever Jared Hughes on Wednesday. Hughes was one of the longest-tenured Pirates and a beloved fixture in the clubhouse, and both coaches and players expressed their disappointment in the fact that he won’t be with the team going forward.

“It was a hard decision. Maybe one of the hardest I’ve been involved in,” Hurdle said. “In the best interests of the team moving forward, we felt we’re stronger heading this way.”

“It’s pretty unfortunate,” said shortstop Jordy Mercer. “I’ve been around here a long time and he was one of the first guys I met. … It just stinks. Everybody sees the kind of competitor that he is on the mound, but for me it’s about the type of guy he is and the type of family man he is. Those are the hard ones to lose.”