It was certainly no secret that Williams was struggling this season. He had a 2-3 record and 7.20 ERA in eight starts and allowed 54 hits over 40 innings.
But this decision was still a stunner. Williams could have been sent to the bullpen and he still had Minor League options left.
"We felt it was the right move to make," Krivsky said from Chattanooga on Saturday. "I thought we'd go this way for now and see what happens. If I can, I'd like to see what kind of Major League interest there is for him."
If the Reds are unable to find any takers for Williams, they will still have to pay the balance of his one-year, $1.4 million contract. If the left-hander ends up being outrighted, he would have to accept the assignment to the Minors to collect his money.
Williams, who learned of the decision from manager Jerry Narron at the team hotel on Saturday morning, promptly called teammate and friend Bronson Arroyo. The two go back to 2001, when both pitched for the Pirates.
"I was surprised because he's a guy from a small market team like this, making a guaranteed contract," Arroyo said. "It kind of says to us that we want to win around here when they're willing to eat almost a million and a half."
Only two starts ago on May 13, Williams had his best outing of the season when he pitched 8 1/3 innings in a hard-luck loss to the Phillies. On Thursday at Pittsburgh, he followed up with a rough three-inning performance where he gave up six first-inning runs before he recorded an out. The 27-year-old's fastball velocity often hit only the low-to-mid 80s (mph), which surprised some.
"To be successful at this level, you have got to be consistent," Narron said. "You can not go out there some days with a lack of command unless you've got great stuff. When you throw in the low 80s, you're not going to trick a lot of people."
Williams' spot in the rotation will be taken by right-hander Elizardo Ramirez, who was expected to be the odd man out once Milton was activated. Ramirez is scheduled to start on Tuesday vs. Milwaukee.
Former GM Dan O'Brien dealt popular first baseman Sean Casey to the Pirates to get Williams in a controversial December trade. Several of O'Brien's acquisitions have gradually lost their jobs since Krivsky's hiring in February, the most notable being infielder Tony Womack. The veteran's departure sent a positive message to the clubhouse, because Cincinnati was willing to eat over $1 million of the unproductive Womack's salary.
"We're trying to make this team better, no matter what the cost," Arroyo said. "It's a bummer for the player. It always comes down to the same old stuff. Baseball is a business."
Regular left fielder Adam Dunn started as the designated hitter on Saturday against Detroit. Ryan Freel took Dunn's place in left field.
On Sunday, it's expected to be center fielder Ken Griffey Jr.'s turn to take the DH role. Seated at a table in the middle of the visitor's clubhouse, Griffey had his game plan for the next day all worked out.
"I'll be sitting right here eating nachos and Little Caesar's pizza," Griffey joked. "There will be a basketball game on that TV over there, and a baseball game on over there."
In his first start since April 18, Milton gave up five runs on 10 hits over five innings while walking three and striking out two. The left-hander missed the last month because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Appearing rusty and lacking crisp velocity, Milton labored through a 30-pitch first inning and only faced the minimum amount of batters once -- in the fifth. Most of his fastballs were clocked in the 86-88 mph range, but he did top out at 91 mph on the ballpark radar one time in his final inning.
"It's one of the reasons we wanted to get him back out there and get him going," Narron said. "We didn't expect him to come out tonight and throw as well as he did in his first two outings. We're glad to have him back out there and look forward to him pitching next week."
Aaron Harang (5-2, 4.19 ERA) will get the ball for the Reds in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET series finale. Lefty Nate Robertson (4-2, 3.50 ERA) is slated to start for Detroit.