SARASOTA, Fla. – Mike Pelfrey “got some things off his chest” in a Sunday morning meeting with General Manager Terry Ryan about his move to the bullpen. Then Pelfrey made a startling discovery: He likes it.
“I had some juices flowing. My heart started pounding, and I was like, ‘Man, this is good,’ ” Pelfrey said about his one inning of work in the Twins’ 6-5 victory over the Orioles. “This is fun.”
That wasn’t his opinion Saturday, when the veteran righthander was informed he would not be in the starting rotation next week. Pelfrey, 31, even suggested he preferred a trade to pitching out of the bullpen.
“I was just frustrated,” he said Sunday. “I don’t want to be a guy who’s upset or holds grudges. That’s not me. I said my piece, and it’s time to move on, time to embrace this role and stay focused.”
He had no trouble doing it against the Orioles, when he was summoned to pitch the seventh inning. Pelfrey got Jonathan Schoop to fly out, Ryan Flaherty to ground out, and Caleb Joseph to tap back to the mound, all in about a minute and a half. He pitched entirely out of the stretch, just to see how it felt, he said, and marveled at how easy it was. “First time out, and seven pitches,” he said with a laugh. “I can probably get used to that.”
Best of all, Pelfrey said, he was able to speed up his preparation ritual. He normally throws about 60 pitches in the bullpen before a start, he said, but “surprising to me, I think it was probably 10 or 12 pitches. I told [bullpen coach] Eddie [Guardado], ‘Hey, if this is a game, I’m ready. And I don’t think we had an out yet. So that’s pretty good.”
Once the season begins, he won’t have the advantage of knowing in advance when he is going to pitch, or even whether he is, so that will require some adjustment. For the time being, manager Paul Molitor said, he won’t bring Pelfrey into an inning in progress.
“If we can give him a next-inning scenario, I think he’s going to be fine with that,” said Molitor, who doesn’t want Pelfrey to abandon pitching out of a full windup. “Getting ready in just a hitter or two probably wouldn’t be the wise thing, at least until he gets a little better feel for it.”
Pelfrey also has a better feel for the Twins’ decision to give the starting job to Tommy Milone, too, after his discussion with Ryan. Ryan described it as “a healthy exchange — I listened, and so did he … I’m OK, [and] I think he’s OK.”
He is now, Pelfrey said.
“I have a lot of respect for him. We had a very good talk. I got some things off my chest, he got some things off his, and it was a very good discussion,” Pelfrey said. “I told him I’m being professional, I’ll go to the pen, I’m going to give you everything I have and we’ll figure this thing out. It’s going to work.”
The hardest part of being in the bullpen? The afternoon sun.
“I baked out there,” he said. “I felt pretty dirty. With the sun and sweat, felt like I needed to change my jersey. … Maybe I’ll have a good tan at the end of the year. ”