Mackey: For Vance Worley, working with Halladay was â€˜a culture shockâ€™
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins haven't had many personalities like Vance Worley in recent years.
Self-deprecating, yet supremely self-assured.
California cool, yet a wearer of rec specs.
Business in front, party under the hat.
Monday's Q and A with reporters after his first start of the spring provided a good showcase for Worley's personality.
How come no changeups today? Do you normally wait until later in spring to mix it in?
"My changeup is usually just terrible all around, all the time," Worley said, playfully. "So if I can not use it, I won't use it."
You threw first-pitch strikes to seven of eight batters, so that's not bad.
"That's good. I didn't count. But that's better than I thought I did."
Was there a particular pitch that was more useful than others today?
"The one that wasn't useful was the double (Travis Snider hit)."
On the rec specs, Worley said he started wearing them when he was 16 years old because he had a hard time picking up the catcher's signs, especially at night.
"I tried to do contacts, couldn't get them in. Had the eye doc try, and he couldn't get them in. ... So I chose to just stick with the glasses, and I don't plan on getting any kind of eye surgery, because I don't want to take that risk -- I might be that one guy who has the bad surgery, then I can't see. Then I'm really screwed out there. So I'll wear the glasses until I'm done playing. ...
"I still have a problem with them steaming up, but that's part of wearing glasses."
Worley is an interesting dude, but he's also a pretty damn good pitcher.
In his first year with the Phillies, 2011, he posted a 3.01 ERA (3.32 FIP) with 119 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings as a 23-year-old. His ERA rose to 4.20 (3.85 FIP) in 133 innings last year, although elbow discomfort played a role in the regression.
Acquired along with Trevor May for outfielder Ben Revere in December, Worley figures to slot in somewhere near the top of the Twins' rotation when the season starts in five weeks. The elbow discomfort is gone, following minor cleanup surgery in September.
The people who have gotten to know him over the first two weeks of spring training have touted Worley, 25, for his competitive nature -- word is he is one of those guys who hates losing, in anything -- and his persistent work ethic.
Considering he spent most of the last three years in Philadelphia around Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt -- perhaps four of the most competitive, hard-working pitchers in baseball -- it's pretty easy to see where Worley gets some of those qualities from.
"For me, it was hard just not to be a fan, you know?" Worley said. "They were my teammates. I grew up watching them pitch from high school into college. What's it going to be like to play against these guys? And next thing you know I'm playing alongside of them. It's kind of like a dream team."
Worley said his teammates in Minnesota have already been tapping his brain about the "dream team" staff in Philadelphia -- "about what they were doing, how they prepare, whether it's conditioning, working out, pitching, sitting there evaluating while the game is going on."
Roy Halladay, in particular, is notorious for his extensive workout regimen and pre-start preparation. He arrives to the spring training facility at 5:30 a.m. every day and does his conditioning and lifting before almost anyone else arrives.
Halladay will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Worley had a front-row seat to watch the work a guy like that puts in.
"It felt like every morning he was there earlier and earlier," Worley said. "The guy is unbelievable, whether it's weights, going from weights to running on a treadmill, running uphill, going into another lift -- it's like, how the hell does this guy do this kind of stuff and continue his success? I felt like I would burn out. ...
"It is definitely a culture shock. There's a reason why he's been around the league so long. He's had success, as the guy puts in his time."
Worley's pitch repertoire revolves largely around his cut fastball, which ranges from the upper-80's to the low-90's in velocity. He is also mixing in a split-fingered fastball for the first time this offseason.
With so many great resources at his disposal in Philadelphia, Worley spent a lot of time talking pitch grips, arm slots and various pitch types with his staff-mates.
"I talked with all of them. Cliff, we talked about curveballs, his cutter," Worley said. "He was always trying to pick my mind about a sinker, because for some reason he said he's always tried and just could never do it. He said that's just one of those pitches where you've either got it or you don't. I said that's kind of like a changeup for me -- I can't throw one. I've been trying for years, I just haven't had the success.
"And with the cutter, I picked all their minds on how they threw theirs. For some reason I couldn't throw any of their grips, and then Cole told me about his, and I started throwing mine like his. ... All of our arm slots are a little different, so we're going to have different breaks on the ball. So mine's more like a slider, but I throw it like a cutter. I don't know why, but it breaks a lot more than it should."
Now Worley finds himself, along with 26-year-old Scott Diamond, as one of the young leaders of a staff that is likely to feature several inexperienced-but-talented arms over the next couple years.
Perhaps this is his chance to pay it forward.