He might be behind in the depth charts for a starting rotation job with the Minnesota Twins, but Cole De Vries is doing his part to pull ahead of Liam Hendriks and Mike Pelfrey, the two pitchers who happen to be in his way.
De Vries has been a victim of the numbers game thus far. Despite receiving a mid-season call-up and making 16 starts with the Twins in 2012, the additions of Kevin Correia, Vance Worley and Pelfrey suddenly made his spot on the rotation much less of a certainty than it had been at the end of the season.
If his Spring Training outings continue to yield similar results, though, the numbers are going to be hard for the Twins to ignore.
Over seven innings split between four outings, De Vries has allowed just a pair of hits and one walk, while striking out five batters. A run did score while he was on the mound in his latest outing on Saturday, but it was unearned.
Those are better numbers than either Hendriks of Pelfrey has shown thus far, and considering that De Vries earned his shot at the majors largely because of his control in the minors (5.00 K/BB in Triple-A in 2012), having the same number after four spring outings can only be considered a boon for his chances.
That said, there is just one number that he has fallen behind in — and as it happens, it might just be the most important number for the Twins. That would be his GO/AO ratio, which is currently sitting at 0.18, compared to Hendriks’ 0.50 and Pelfrey’s 0.55.
Yes, De Vries happens to be a fly ball pitcher in a team built for groundballers, and the fact that he was homer-prone last season (1.64 HR/9) means that his stuff isn’t going to play as well as the other guys on the team, even if he is giving up fewer hits and walks.
Pitching to contact (83.9 percent in 2012) and fly balls just doesn’t mix, and especially not in Minnesota. Until he shows that he can get away from his fly ball-prone ways, the 28-year old is likely always going to be an underdog to be a starter for the team.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance, though. Numbers are numbers, and as long as De Vries can put up shutout innings in spring, it’ll be difficult for the Twins to send him back to Triple-A, underdog or not.