Twins hope Worley's drive sets tone for season
Acquired in trade with Phillies, righty prepared for first Opening Day start
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Vance Worley discovered during his time with the Phillies, there were certain perks to being in the same rotation as aces Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
W: Verlander L: Worley SV: Coke
The young right-hander was able to learn from those established pitchers at an early point in his career, and he still puts much of their advice to use when he's out on the mound. But being part of such a strong rotation also meant Worley wasn't going to be starting on Opening Day any time soon.
Things changed, however, and Worley will get that chance, taking center stage at Target Field as the Twins' Opening Day starter at 3:10 p.m. CT on Monday against the Tigers.
It caps a wild offseason for Worley, who was acquired by Minnesota for Ben Revere on the same early-December day he was set to pick up his engagement ring, and now he'll be rewarded with his first career Opening Day start in his first outing at Target Field.
"It is a little different," Worley said with a smile. "I'm just hoping I can bring over what I did learn from being on that staff in Philly and apply it here and see if anyone else will come along with it."
Worley, 25, was acquired by the Twins as part of their movement to add pitching this offseason. They first traded Denard Span to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer, then they surprised many around baseball by trading Revere -- Span's replacement in center -- for Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May just a week later.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan felt the deal with the Phils was too good to pass up, especially with center fielder Aaron Hicks -- Minnesota's No. 6 prospect, according to MLB.com -- waiting in the wings, and the GM heard nothing but positive reviews about Worley from his staff.
"He's a competitive guy," Ryan said of Worley. "He's not afraid. He's got enough velocity, he's got enough slider, he's got enough breaking ball. It's not too complicated. Our scouts liked Worley."
While part of such an impressive pitching staff in Philadelphia, Worley was able to fly under the radar a bit despite impressing as a rookie in 2011 with a 3.01 ERA across 131 2/3 innings.
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
|4||RHP||Cole De Vries|
Worley didn't quite reach that level of success in his sophomore campaign -- he posted a 4.20 ERA in 133 innings -- but he was plagued by a bone chip in his right elbow that ended his season prematurely. Worley, though, had the bone chip removed in September and has proven to be healthy this spring.
It's the same procedure that left-hander Scott Diamond underwent in December, but Diamond, who would've been the Twins' Opening Day starter if healthy, is still working his way back and will open the season on the 15-day disabled list.
That gave Worley the opportunity to begin the year as Minnesota's No. 1 starter, even though he doesn't like to describe himself as an ace.
"I think we're still coming together as a team," said Worley. "It's a matter of building off each other, really."
But Twins catcher Joe Mauer said he sees top-of-the-rotation potential in Worley, who has a career 3.50 ERA in 277 2/3 big league innings.
"He's got the makeup of a No. 1," Mauer said. "He's a competitor. He's a guy who gets after it and works hard. I noticed that the first day of camp. He goes out there and knows what to do. I've just been trying to get to know him better as we go along, but he has the makeup, for sure."
Manager Ron Gardenhire also sees that fiery side of Worley that had him nicknamed "The Vanimal" during his time with the Phillies, and the skipper thinks Worley can help anchor the staff.
"We want him to be that 200-inning guy," Gardenhire said. "That's what we got him for. He can do those things. He's a big, strong guy."
Worley will be counted on to set the tone for Minnesota in the season opener, as the club has struggled over the past two years, especially in April.
It won't be an easy task, either, considering he's set to go up against Tigers ace Justin Verlander and the temperature in Minneapolis is expected to be in the 30s. But Gardenhire feels Worley is up to the task.
"We just want him to give us a chance," Gardenhire said. "He's done that, and he's done it in Philadelphia, which is probably a tougher ballpark to pitch in than anywhere in our league. So we'll see what happens, but we like the young man and the way he goes about his business."