ADVERTISEMENT

Vance Worley will compete for the only open spot in the rotation.

MARLIN LEVISON • startribune.com,

Twins' 'Vanimal' is less of an animal than he was a year ago

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • February 17, 2014 - 9:47 AM

– Sweat dripped from Vance Worley’s chin Sunday following a throwing session at the Lee County Sports Complex. Twins training camp opens Monday, and the righthander is locked in on winning the final spot in the starting rotation.

You remember Worley, don’t you? He’s called the Vanimal. He wears glasses on the mound. He was the Twins’ Opening Day starter, for goodness sakes.

He also was sent to the minors in May, came down with shoulder soreness and never returned. Yes, he’s still around, and is getting a chance to make the team.

Worley was banished to Class AAA Rochester after going 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA with the Twins. He basically was told he was not the pitcher they thought they had traded for when they sent Ben Revere to the Phillies in exchange for Worley and righthander Trevor May. Worley was 11-3, 3.01 in 2011 with the Phillies and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. That’s the guy the Twins thought they were getting.

Worley is back this season to show them he is that guy.

‘‘It was kind of like a Nintendo game last year,” Worley said. ‘‘I was pushing the reset button I don’t know how many times. I think this year you are going to get a taste of what I can really do, and the fans will get to see something they didn’t see last year.”

First of all, fans will see less of Worley than they did last season. He was asked by the club to lose weight during the offseason and obliged by hitting the gym, eating healthier and dropping 25 pounds. He weighed 228 pounds when he landed in Fort Myers.

“It was brought to my attention a couple times last year,” Worley said, “and rather than continuing to hear about it, I lost weight.”

Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson spotted Worley on the field on Wednesday and said: ‘‘Good for him. That’s nice to see.”

Is that all Worley needs to reconnect with his inner Vanimal? In 2011, he gave up 7.9 hits per nine innings. In 2012, it rose to 10.4 — although his year ended with surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. In 10 starts with the Twins last season, Worley gave up an mind-numbing 15.2 hits per nine innings. He was sent to Rochester after giving up eight earned runs over 3⅔ innings on May 22 at Atlanta.

‘‘Obviously we weren’t as impressed because he hadn’t performed as well as he had in Philadelphia when he was a rookie,” said Rob Antony, Twins assistant general manager. ‘‘He was coming off of an injury so you have to give him a little benefit of the doubt. We still believe that he’s a much better pitcher than he showed last year. He’s going to be squarely in the mix to try and make this club and be our fifth starter, or if he can be better than somebody in the bullpen.”

Righthander Samuel Deduno and lefthander Scott Diamond are in the mix with Worley for the final rotation spot. All three also are out of options.

Antony stressed that the club prefers that Worley makes the team as a starter. When healthy, the Twins believe Worley can pitch deep into games and pile up the ground-ball outs.

Worley hopes the sweat equity he built during the offseason helps him get back to being that type of pitcher.

‘‘All I can do is come in here and win a spot,” he said. “All I can do is go out there, keep the ball down and throw strikes. No one wants to go to Triple-A. I really worked on the weight and made sure I’m good to go. This is probably the best I’ve felt since 2011.”

© 2014 Star Tribune