Since being acquired by the Pirates on March 25, Vance Worley has been working to get stretched out, after being groomed for a role relief by the Twins.
“I am glad to have the opportunity here to get things back on track,” Worley said. “Coming off last season, I had the surgery in the offseason. I was in some situations where I did not have some success and ended up in the minor leagues. I went into camp and was looking to fight for a job and never really got a chance to fight for it.”
For Worley, the fit in Pittsburgh is a nice one. He said that they have seen him for years in all levels of baseball and “know what I am capable of.” Worley knows that if he accomplishes that, he will receive another shot at the big leagues.
What he is capable of is a combined 3.60 ERA in 264.2 innings between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. This success earned Worley the opening day start in Minnesota in 2013, but the success did not translate over.
Worley was willing to go to the bullpen with the Twins, as they stated that their vision was him as the set-up man this season. After not throwing for 10 days, and getting one inning in that role, Worley was sent to the Pirates.
“I got picked up over here and they said that they wanted me to get stretched out as a starter,” Worley said. “I got to go through extended and got to work with Jim Benedict a little bit. We got things right mechanically and I think that we actually moved a little bit faster than we were going to.”
Worley had back-to-back five inning appearances in extended spring training before making his debut in Indianapolis on May 6. In the outing, Worley threw 75 pitches over six innings. He allowed five hits and one run, while striking out four. Most importantly, he reported that there was no soreness in the days after.
“Everything felt good,” Worley said. “Mechanically, it felt right. Mentally, it is back on track. I am just seeing what they want to do.”
All of the variety of pitches were working for Worley in his first start, he said. He was able to mix and throw the cutter, curveball, and change-up “just the way that it used to be.” Though he admitted that he was struggling with command on the left side of the plate, he said that it improved as the game continued and he got more comfortable.
Though he has been a reliever a few times in the past, Worley made no doubts that he would like to be a starter, because it is “what I know.” However, he said that he would do whatever it takes to get back to the big leagues.
For Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, he looks to Worley for possible help later in the season when he is stretched out – whether that is in the bullpen or as a starter.
“It was a matter of getting him stretched out,” Huntington said about Worley’s delay to Indianapolis. “We like him as a starter candidate and with the idea that if we have a need out of the bullpen, he’s pitched out of the bullpen. But we wanted to get him back starting. We feel like that’s a better place to try to get him back to what he was a couple years ago.”
Huntington also said that the process of stretching Worley out allowed each party to have a ‘getting to know you’ period.
“It was ultimately, he just needed spring training,” Huntington said. “He hadn’t gotten multiple innings, given his situation in spring training with the club he was with. We wanted to get him stretched out, wanted to see what we could help him with at the same time, wanted to get to know him, earn his trust and respect before we started jumping in and saying fix this or fix that. But mostly it was about getting him stretched out.”
Given his experience and past success, Worley is a perfect low risk candidate for the Pirates later in the season. While he will not be ready for few months, Worley could be a key down the stretch in Pittsburgh given any injuries in the rotation or even in long relief if needed.