Mike Pelfrey is closing in on a $100,000 bonus for pitching 150 innings this season. But this isn't the way he wanted to get there.
Pelfrey suffered what may have been his worst outing of a difficult season Wednesday, surrendering seven runs and recording only nine outs as Oakland pounded the Twins, 18-3. By pitching so poorly, he is undoubtedly costing himself some money on his next contract, after he becomes a free agent in November. But he's costing himself some money this season, too.
Pelfrey, who earns $4 million as a base salary, has pitched 142 1/3 innings, and is due the bonus at 150 innings, and another $150,000 if he reaches 160. The Twins have discussed shutting him down for the season, considering he's a year removed from elbow surgery, but "I would like to finish the season," he said, though not because of the bonus. When healthy, he's always started 31 games or more, and he expects himself to live up to that standard, he said. "I always take pride in taking the ball every fifth day. Whatever I end up getting to is what I end up getting to."
Pelfrey says he still feels strong, though his last two starts have been disastrous; he allowed six runs in six innings against Toronto last Friday, and has a 12.00 ERA this month. He's also now 5-12 on the season.
His manager said before the game that there are no plans to remove Pelfrey from the rotation, but "We're definitely monitoring pitch counts right now," Ron Gardenhire said, of both Pelfrey and Andrew Albers. "If he feels like he's starting to run out of gas, we'll take him out. ... We're paying attention to it.
Even with a six-man rotation, Pelfrey could make three more starts this season, so it's not out of the question that Gardenhire's decision could mean as much as a quarter-million dollars to the 29-year-old righthander.
Players keep track of that, Gardenhire said. Managers cannot.
"You're aware. It's money, it's cash," Gardenhire said of bonus clauses -- which he had himself in his contracts while with the Mets. He got paid for playing a certain number of games. "That's why I was happy we had Rusty Staub," he joked, "because I pinch-ran for him all the time. And I made my appearances [bonus]. Because I would never have gotten them as a hitter."
But because of the possible conflicts of interest, he tries to remain oblivious about his player's incentive clauses, like the $1 million Josh Willingham won't earn this year because he won't reach 525 plate appearances, or the bonuses Glen Perkins receives for finishing games as the team's closer all year.
Or Pelfrey's innings incentive. "I don't pay attention to that stuff. I can't. I would never want anything like that to affect the way I handle a pitcher out there," Gardenhire said. "I've actually, in the past, had players try to tell me that stuff. That doesn't work out very well with me. I can't. We just have to pitch the best way we possibly can. If they deserve the innings, they'll get their innings. If they pitch well enough, they'll stay out there. But to try to force the issue, and have somebody make money because of that, I don't get involved in that stuff."