Spring observations: Vance Worley reminds us of a previous shelling
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After hurling two scoreless innings in his spring debut for the Minnesota Twins, the self-deprecating Vance Worley reminded reporters his outing on Monday went much better than his last outing at Hammond Stadium.
In Worley's final spring start of last year, he made the trip from Clearwater with his old team, the Philadelphia Phillies, and was greeted by Twins hitters with an 11-hit, 11-run bludgeoning.
"A lot worse than I did today. A lot worse," Worley said with a smile. "I think it was four innings, 11 runs... Yeah, that's rough. ... That was my last outing of the spring... A couple bombs, lean-yas everywhere. We'll just put that one behind us."
On Monday, Worley faced eight batters, throwing first-pitch strikes to seven of them. Pirates hitters squared him up twice -- a sharp single to left by catcher Tony Sanchez and a double off the wall in right by outfielder Travis Snider.
It's too early to make any significant projections, but Worley might be the Twins' best starting pitcher on paper.
Mostly overshadowed on a Phillies staff that has included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels over the past couple seasons, Worley owns a 3.50 career ERA (and 3.57 FIP) in the National League while striking out 7.71 batters per nine innings.
If Scott Diamond's elbow is 100% by April, he'd likely be the opening-day starter. Kevin Correia has more tenure. But the pecking order of the Twins' starting rotation is wide open.
"For me, I mean, it's about right now," Worley said. "If I don't do that well, it's just going to put me farther behind in the rotation. But it's just a matter of going out there and making sure everything's working right, and everything else will take care of itself."
Plouffe shoulders important load defensively
I had a chance to catch up with third baseman Trevor Plouffe for a while this morning. Plouffe is working his way back from a mild calf strain, and he expects to see his first game action on Tuesday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.
For the first time in his career, Plouffe enters spring training knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, which position the Twins want him to play. He's a third baseman.
At this time last year, Plouffe was shagging fly balls off the warning track, doing outfield drills with Denard Span and Ben Revere. The Twins moved him to third base after Danny Valencia was demoted to Triple-A Rochester in May.
Plouffe noted in our discussion how much different third base is from shortstop, his natural position, despite their close proximity on the diamond. "The angles to the ball, the throws, everything" is different, and so is the reaction time. Third base is a very reactionary position, whereas shortstops are allowed to survey the infield while making plays.
In 804 2/3 innings at the hot corner last year, Plouffe rated 12 runs below average, including -13 on plays to his right. The best defensive third basemen are +10 and above over the course of a full season. Because the Twins have so many contact-prone pitchers on the staff -- Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey, etc. -- it's important for the infield defense to be solid, if not exceptional.
We'll see how Plouffe progresses.
Benson cuts it loose
In Sunday's intrasquad game, Joe Benson -- who is a darkhorse to win the starting centerfield job -- ripped a low line drive double to the fence off J.O. Berrios, then scored from second base on an infield single shortly after.
Why is this significant?
Because Benson is coming off significant knee surgery that required a five-month rehab process, and speed has always been a big part of his game -- both in the outfield and on the base paths.
Benson said he gets to the clubhouse early every morning to get the necessary work done for his knee, then he continues with baseball activities with the team without any restrictions.
The fact that he feels comfortable enough with his knee to go full-speed on the base paths is a good sign. It's already going to be a tough challenge competing with Darin Mastroianni and Aaron Hicks, but doing it with second thoughts about his knee would make the task insurmountable.
Benson has stolen 106 bases in 646 career minor league games.