Worley adjusting to offseason curveball
Right-hander eager to contribute to Twins following surgery, trade
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Vance Worley was all set to go pick up his engagement ring.
He had just returned from a vacation in Hawaii with his girlfriend, Maricel Vivas, and had everything lined up for their future together.
They had even recently signed a one-year lease on a three-bedroom house outside Philadelphia in New Jersey for his upcoming season with the Phillies.
But then one phone call from Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on Dec. 6 changed it all.
"I get the call from Ruben Amaro saying, 'Hey, we just traded you to the Twins,' and I'm thinking, 'I'm supposed to get my ring today,'" Worley said with a laugh.
In an instant, Worley's plans for the upcoming season -- and beyond -- were turned upside down.
He had to scramble to see if he could get out of the lease, and is still in the process of trying to negotiate that with the homeowner. But he did propose to Vivas -- they're planning to get married in Philadelphia in November -- and the couple has warmed up to the idea of him pitching in a Twins uniform and even found a place to live in Minneapolis while he was in town for TwinsFest.
"I'm very excited," Worley said. "I'm ready to be healthy and get back to pitching the way I can."
Worley, 25, is coming off elbow surgery, as he had a bone chip removed from his elbow in September. He said he noticed something was wrong with his elbow early in the season because he had trouble throwing between starts.
He couldn't locate his pitches unless he gave maximum effort in bullpen sessions and by the time he was shut down in late August, he could barely throw a baseball 90 feet between outings.
Worley, though, was still able to post a 4.20 ERA in 133 innings despite the discomfort. But he wasn't quite the same as he was in '11, when he posted a 3.01 ERA in 131 2/3 innings en route to finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
"I had to make do with what I had," said Worley, who has a career 3.50 ERA in 277 2/3 innings.
But the surgery fixed everything, and Worley was quickly ahead of schedule, as he was able to keep his full range of motion immediately after the operation. He was throwing again in October and said his elbow issue is a thing of the past.
So Worley is now focused on the future and could even start for the Twins on Opening Day against the Tigers on April 1 if left-hander Scott Diamond isn't ready to go after undergoing the same operation in December.
"It would mean a lot," Worley said about the potential of starting on Opening Day. "It means they trust me coming from another organization, No. 1, and No. 2, it means they trust me to take the ball on Game 1. So that's big. It means you mean something to the organization."
Worley is part of the club's movement to add impact arms, as he came over with prospect Trevor May with outfielder Ben Revere going to the Phillies. The Twins also acquired prospect Alex Meyer in the trade that sent center fielder Denard Span to Washington.
He said he hopes to pass down the knowledge he learned from Philadelphia's trio of frontline starters -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels -- to Twins pitchers, and that he fits right in with his new teammates.
"It's laid back here, from the players to the coaching staff," said Worley, who hails from Sacramento, Calif., and played his college ball at Long Beach State. "You just do it right and do it right the first time."
Worley, though, will be making the transition to the American League, which can be tougher on pitchers because of the designated hitter. But Worley is excited about that challenge and is also moving from a hitters' paradise in Citizens Bank Park to a pitchers' park in Target Field.
"I'm not really too worried about it," Worley said. "Obviously, people keep talking about how different it is and how they swing more. So I think it's great. In the National League, sometimes I felt I couldn't get guys to swing."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also isn't too concerned about Worley making the switch, as he's ready to count on the right-hander this year in the club's revamped rotation after Minnesota starters finished with the second-worst ERA in baseball last year.
"We know he wants the ball, and he's going to go at them," Gardenhire said. "He can punch a few guys out here and there. He's pitched in a pretty tough ballpark in Philadelphia, so I think he knows how to work his way around that stuff."
But as Worley found out this offseason, sometimes it's life, and not just the hitters, you have to worry about in the crazy world of being a big league pitcher.