As a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, righthander Vance Worley was way down the pecking order as an option to start on Opening Day. Actually, everyone but ace Roy Halladay was, but Worley wasn’t going to get the nod over Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, either.
Look what happens when a team that is desperate for pitching trades for you. Worley, in his first season with the Twins, is your Opening Day starter.
And, yes, he feels strange to be in the position.
“It is a little different,” Worley said. “I’m just hoping to bring over a little bit that I did learn in Philly from that staff and that team and apply it here and see if anybody else comes along with it.”
It doesn’t end Monday. The way the Twins have set up their rotation, the first three starters were not with the organization a year ago. It represents the sweeping change the Twins sought during the offseason when they attempted to repair their starting pitching.
Worley, traded along with pitching prospect Trevor May from Philadelphia for Ben Revere, will start opposite of Detroit ace Justin Verlander. Wednesday, righthander Kevin Correia, a free-agent pickup from Pittsburgh, will start Game 2 of the series. Thursday, former Mets righthander Mike Pelfrey will make his Twins debut.
Three days of new Twins starters. It’s the Debut Series.
Twins starters had a 5.40 ERA last season, the second-worst mark in baseball. The club believes its offense is good enough that the changes made to the rotation should pay off.
“Coming in, everyone I talked to about this team said it can put up runs with anyone, and I truly believe that,’’ Pelfrey said. “I think the bullpen is going to be rock-solid. It’s a matter of us starters keeping them in the game and giving us a chance, and I think we’re going to do that.’’
Worley’s challenge is to get the series off to a good start as he is matched up against Tigers superstar Verlander. Target Field is ready. There are no signs of snow around the park. The grass in green and bunting lines the facades of every deck. A sellout crowd is expected to battle the cold and see what their new pitcher can do.
“It’s just a matter of not putting too much pressure on myself and pitching the game I know how to pitch,’’ Worley said.
Worley is only 25, but he has the reputation of being a bulldog, not backing down with hitters and competing with whatever he has that day. Now that he’s had a bone chip removed from his elbow, the surgery was in September, he feels he has the sharpness back on his sinking fastball. He wants to resemble the pitcher who went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2011. He doesn’t want to look like that guy who was 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA last season.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland made Worley sound like an established veteran.
“Very versatile,” said Leyland, whose team took batting practice at Target Field on Sunday. “A strikethrower with any pitch. Not overpowering.’’
Scott Diamond would have been the obvious choice to start Opening Day, but the lefthander won’t be ready until April 12 because he is working his way back from his own bone chip removal in December. Pelfrey was a better candidate among the newcomers, but he was coming back from Tommy John surgery and the Twins were concerned about his health. Correia, with 1,066 career innings, has the most experience, but he is viewed as a back-of-the-rotation arm.
So Worley gets the nod, but the Twins get to show off all three of their new pitchers this week at home.
“They are some good additions,’’ first baseman Justin Morneau said. “We’re going to be depending on them and they are going to depend on us.’’