That’s what the Minnesota Twins wanted to see out of their big righty.
The team had taken a chance on Mike Pelfrey by signing him to a one-year, $4 million contract in hopes that he could recover from Tommy John surgery and be a reliable, inning-eating anchor for the team’s strikeout-challenged rotation.
Despite all the rosy early camp reports about how the arm felt great and such, Pelfrey did not show particularly good form with his stuff, getting knocked around for 1.2 innings and not being able to finish his scheduled two innings.
On Sunday, he made a complete turn-around.
Taking on a lineup that included most of the Tampa Bay Rays regulars, Pelfrey needed just 39 pitches to get through three innings of scoreless work. He was a much more efficient pitcher on the mound today, at one point retiring six straight batters, giving up only a double to Evan Longoria and a walk to Desmond Jennings.
According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, Pelfrey credited his success to the work done on his mechanics between outings by Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, saying that a minor adjustment he made to his finishing motion of his delivery “made all the difference in the world”.
It showed on the scoreboard, and he can certainly take that as a positive. That said, taking a closer look, and Pelfrey’s improvements tell a little bit of a different story.
Yes, he did not allow a runner past second base, but still give up five fly balls to four ground balls. Given that he is a ground ball pitcher, the team would probably like to see that number start to lead towards the latter side. Pelfrey’s career 1.57 GB/FB ratio suggests that until the numbers start tilting, there are still lots to be worked on in spring before he’s in competitive form.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire isn’t worried about it for now, though, saying that his only concerns for Pelfrey are “about him going out there and finding his release point, and health.” Though, considering that the 29-year old is back in game form after less than a year, maybe he should be worried about the latter too much.
As for the former? Well, it’s a process, and considering he went from getting shelled to going three scoreless innings, I’d say that’s a pretty big step taken for Pelfrey, even if the ground balls haven’t quite come as frequently as he’d like yet.