FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Vance Worley managed to become a fan favorite in Philadelphia despite pitching on a staff that included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Now with the Minnesota Twins, the 25-year-old Californian will have a chance to stand out again. In fact, he could end up being the team’s opening day starter.
“It means a lot. It means they trust me to come over from another organization, one,” Worley said. “But two, to take the ball on Game 1 — that’s big. That means you mean something to the organization.”
It’s still a hypothetical for now. The Twins made wholesale changes to their starting rotation, which was a mess last year aside from left-hander Scott Diamond. Worley was acquired in December when Minnesota sent outfielder Ben Revere to the Phillies, and he could be the Twins’ top starter if Diamond isn’t healthy by the opener.
After a couple starts in 2010, Worley won 11 of his first 12 decisions the following season for Philadelphia. The right-hander’s glasses, mohawk and nickname “Vanimal” were all part of his charm. He finished that year 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and was third in the Rookie of the Year vote.
He went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA last year, and when the Phillies wanted to acquire a center fielder, they figured they had enough depth behind Halladay, Lee and Hamels that they could deal Worley.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think Vance Worley a couple years ago had a huge rookie year, then last year I think he showed he can pitch,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Twins were happy to take him. Diamond went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA last season, but he had surgery in December to remove a bone spur and chips from his pitching elbow. Minnesota seemingly left no stone unturned while looking for rotation candidates. The Twins signed Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey — and even brought in Rich Harden on a minor league deal after the right-hander missed all of last season following shoulder surgery.
There was little risk in giving those pitchers a chance, but Minnesota parted ways with a speedy young outfielder to acquire Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May. The Twins also traded center fielder Denard Span to Washington for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer. The pitching makeover is still in progress during spring training.
With the season opener against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers less than six weeks away, the Twins have a lot of decisions still to make. And Worley has a lot of work to do. He reported back Tuesday from a live batting practice session.
“I was telling everybody what was coming, so they were all hacking,” Worley said. “Everything came out fine. Everything did what I wanted it to. I was in or around the zone like I wanted, so I felt like I got something accomplished.”
Since Worley pitched in the National League, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire hasn’t had much of a chance to watch him up close.
“Seen video of him, and that’s about it. I think we might have seen him in spring training a little bit, but not very much,” Gardenhire said. “We know that he wants the ball, he’s going to go at them, he can punch a few guys out here and there. He’s pitched in a pretty tough ballpark in Philadelphia, so I think he knows how to work his way around that stuff. We’ll see.”
Worley has also had a chance to learn from some of the best. With Halladay, Lee and Hamels anchoring the Phillies’ staff, he couldn’t help but take in a bit of wisdom.
“Go after guys. That’s the biggest thing — pitch with a purpose,” Worley said. “Know what you’re going to throw and feel confident that you’re going to throw it for a strike or locate it where you want it. Make them hit you.”
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