COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins are once again struggling to get quality outings from their starting pitchers. This season, the Twins have several pitchers that have struggled after having offseason surgery on their pitching elbows.
Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey all had surgery and have combined to go 9-18 with a 6.11 ERA this season. Worley has already been banished to Class AAA Rochester, while Diamond and Pelfrey are on the hot seat now that pitching prospect Kyle Gibson has been called up and is scheduled to make his major league debut on Saturday, June 28.
Worley was the Twins' opening day starter when it was determined that Diamond needed to start the season on the disabled list. Diamond and Worley both had surgery to remove bone chips, but Worley had his during the 2012 season, while Diamond's came in the offseason. This type of surgery is considered relatively minor, but neither pitcher has been able to pitch as well as they did prior to it.
Vance Worley Demoted to Minor Leagues After Just 10 Starts
Worley was 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA with the Philadelphia Phillies in his rookie season of 2011. In his first 18 starts of 2012, he was 6-6 with a 3.63 ERA. In his final five starts before being shut down for the season to have surgery, Worley went 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA.
Worley struggled from the start in 2013 after being traded to the Twins. He struggled mightily to get outs in the first inning, which would drive up his pitch counts and prevent him from going deep in games. The Twins finally demoted him after his 10th start when his ERA ballooned to 7.21. Perhaps most concerning is that his strikeout rate was only 4.6 per nine innings after it was 7.7 with the Phillies.
Worley has had some success at Rochester with a 3.10 ERA in six starts, but his strikeout rate is still just 4.9.
Minnesota Twins Are Patient with Mike Pelfrey Despite His Struggles
The Twins have been more patient with Pelfrey because he was coming back from Tommy John surgery. In fact, he was well ahead of schedule just by being on the active 25-man roster for opening day. He had a 6.11 ERA in 14 starts before he was placed on the disabled list with a strained back, which opened up a spot in the rotation for Gibson.
Pelfrey has actually pitched better lately. In his last four starts, he went 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA. However, those starts came against the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, the Phillies, and the Chicago White Sox. All four teams have losing records and weak offenses.
If the Twins try to send Pelfrey to Rochester, they will most likely lose him altogether. As a veteran, he will have to be designated for assignment, which means that another team can claim him off waivers. If he isn't claimed, he can still refuse to go down to the minor leagues and become a free agent instead.
Scott Diamond Needs to Pitch Better to Keep His Spot in the Rotation
Diamond doesn't have that type of luxury and could easily be sent down when Pelfrey comes off the disabled list. Diamond has pitched the best of the three. He is 5-7 with a 5.40 ERA.
However, he has a 6.69 ERA in his last nine starts. Diamond also has gotten into a bad pattern of pitching well for several innings before quickly giving up several runs, and usually the lead, before being pulled in the fifth or sixth inning.
The Twins have the option of having Pelfrey go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues for up to 30 days, but it is doubtful they will have him do more than one or two starts unless he has a setback with his injured back. When he went on the DL, Pelfrey tried to convince the Twins to allow him to try to warm up before his scheduled start, so he obviously wasn't hurt all that much.
When Pelfrey is ready to return, he will most likely replace either Diamond or P.J. Walters, who had pitched pretty well up until his last start when he couldn't get out of the first inning. Diamond will have at least two more starts to show he is deserving of keeping his spot in the rotation.
Hopefully, the Twins will learn from this and plan accordingly when a pitcher goes under the knife in the offseason, even if it is "minor" surgery.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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- Vance Worley
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