Zulgad: After rocky start, Vance Worley rebounds with solid outing
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MINNEAPOLIS -- This was not the initial impression Vance Worley had been hoping to make with the Minnesota Twins.
Coming off a spring training in which he posted a less-than-stellar 5.73 earned-run average in six starts, Worley started the opener Monday against Detroit at Target Field by giving up a single to leadoff hitter Austin Jackson.
With Jackson on the move, Torii Hunter followed by executing a perfect hit-and-run by putting a seeing-eye single through the hole that had just been vacated by Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.
Miguel Cabrera grounded to short on fielder's choice to score Jackson and the lefthanded-hitting Prince Fielder followed with a cue shot down the third-base line to score Cabrera before Worley got out of the inning.
By that point, Worley had thrown 24 pitches and gotten only one swinging strike.
Jhonny Peralta opened the second inning with a single to right and stole second before Tigers' No. 9 hitter Omar Infante knocked him in with a single to left.
Detroit led 3-0 after two innings, Worley had thrown 38 pitches and the announced crowd of 38,282 that braved 35-degree temperatures at first pitch had to fear they were about to see more futility from a starting staff that had the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.40) last year.
This did not prove to be the case.
The Twins lost 4-2 to the Tigers but the good news was that Worley did not fall apart.
The righthander ended up giving up three runs and eight hits over six innings while striking out three and walking only one. He lasted long enough to throw 101 pitches and in the end it was the failure of the Twins' offense that cost them the game.
"I felt good," Worley said. "The first couple innings, I was up in the zone. I settled down and was able to get some quicker outs. ... It was just making adjustments really. I needed to get the ball down and by the time I got it down in the first inning it was too late.
"I had given up a couple runs or whatever. But the next inning, it was starting to work its way down and finally by the end of that inning everything was coming out where I needed it to."
This will be the type of performance the Twins need from their starters this season if they are going to be a better ballclub than the one that lost 99 and 96 games the past two years.
Worley, who came over from Philadelphia this offseason along with minor league pitcher Trevor May in the trade that sent center fielder Ben Revere to the Phillies, was part of a pitching staff with his former team that included Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Safe to say, he was never an option to start on opening day for the Phillies. But circumstances with the Twins are far different. Worley is now part of a rotation where there is nothing resembling an ace and where an opportunity exists to make a positive impression on a start-by-start basis.
Manager Ron Gardenhire certainly liked what he saw from Worley after the second inning Monday as he kept the score close with the Twins facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
"I think once (Worley) started getting the ball down you saw a more effective use of his pitches because he was up a little bit early," Gardenhire said. "That was probably opening day (nerves), the whole package. I really love watching him out there. He works fast, he holds runners. He had a good angle and had a nice breaking ball. He did a really nice job. He got us deep into the game like we were hoping and that was perfect."
The Twins were able to get Verlander out of the game after only five innings and 91 pitches. Verlander had given up no runs and three hits and struck out seven when he was lifted. His departure enabled the Twins to get after the Tigers bullpen.
The Twins, however, were able to push only one run across in the sixth after having the bases loaded and Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee struck out with one out, the bases loaded and a run in in the seventh. That left the Twins trailing 3-2.
In six innings of work, Worley did not give up a fly ball out to the outfield - there were two popups to shortstop Pedro Florimon - and induced 13 outs via ground balls.
"I like ground balls," Worley said. "That's what I try to do, try to get quick outs. Strikeouts for me isn't a big deal. I'll take them if they come, but for the most part I'm just going out there trying to get the guys to put it in play. I did what I needed to do today."
Said Plouffe: "I was impressed with him. He came out the first couple of innings and gave up some runs. ... They weren't really squaring the ball up against him. And to be able to come out like that and put up zeroes for the rest of the time he was out there, that is something that we need. He kept us in the game and that's all we can ask for as a team."
Worley, who goes by the nickname of "The Vanimal" and wears goggles while pitching, did not disappoint in showing that he might be a bit of a character.
Despite the frigid temperatures, he made his start wearing no sleeves under his jersey. He also did not bother to head to the clubhouse between innings, instead sitting in the dugout with a jacket on for warmth and a towel wrapped around his hands.
"For me, I stay hot all the time," Worley said, explaining his decision to not wear sleeves. "I was sweating just walking out there to play catch today so if I had sleeves it would have been really hot out there. ... It's genetics. I don't need sleeves or anything like that."
As long as he continues to provide the Twins with quality starts, no one is going to concern themselves with Worley's wardrobe choices.