Monday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins took two games from the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles in split-squad, Spring Training action. Offense was in high supply for Minnesota, who scored a combined 21 runs on 10 extra-base hits in the two games. Brian Dozier improved his spring training average to .714 with a pair of doubles, and shortstop prospect Danny Santana drove in three runs on two triples. In support of the offensive overflow, the Twins got good outings from the games’ two starting pitchers as well. Kevin Correia tossed three hitless innings against Toronto, and Vance Worley allowed only one hit and struck out one in three scoreless innings of work against Baltimore. Worley’s short but solid performance was welcoming to both Twins fans and Worley himself. If he wants to stay in Minnesota, he’ll need to add several similar outings throughout the month of March.
Worley, at 26 years old, is all out of free-agent options and needs to make the Twins’ opening day roster to avoid being traded or designated for assignment. This spring, he finds himself in competition for Minnesota’s fifth and final starting rotation spot with Scott Diamond and Sam Deduno. As both Diamond and Deduno are out of options as well, the Twins have briefly mentioned an interest in retaining two of the three pitchers and placing one in the bullpen to start 2014. Minnesota, however, already has an abundance of solid relief pitchers and is waiting for the opportune time to call up star prospect Alex Meyer. Power-arm Kyle Gibson also looks to see big-league time in 2014, and only one spot seems truly available for the three aforementioned roster hopefuls.
At 23 years old, Worley finished the 2011 season third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. In his first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies, he posted an 11-3 record, 3.01 ERA and 8.1 K/9 over 25 appearances. In roughly the same amount of work in 2012, Worley regressed slightly to a 4.20 ERA and 7.2 K/9. Prior to the 2013 season, Worley was part of the Ben Revere trade and found a new home at Target Field. The 2013 season, however, proved to be the worst of his career and one of the worst in MLB that year.
Known as The Vanimal, Worley was 1-5 over 10 starts last season with a 7.21 ERA and 1.99 WHIP. His K/9 of 4.6 was almost three strikeouts below his career mark of 7.3, and he averaged less than five innings pitched per start. To be fair, Worley was originally expected to be a fourth or fifth starter on a bad team without many expectations. By the season opener, injuries made Worley Minnesota’s opening-day starter, but it all went downhill from there. He was visibly shaken through much of 2013 and likely lost grip on a lot of confidence.
Before being shut down for the last part of 2013, Worley was 6-3 with a 3.88 ERA over nine starts in AAA. Moving forward, he’ll attempt to build off those decent numbers and today’s solid outing in hopes to return to his 2011 form. Minnesota likely doesn’t feel well about giving up on Worley after one bad season, but that may be the decision they eventually have to make. Deduno is the early favorite to claim the last rotation spot, and it’s going to take a truly dominant spring for Worley to remain a Twin in 2014.