Worley fixes mechanics, lands in Pirates' rotation

Posted: July 07, 2014

PITTSBURGH - While a gaggle of media (more than a dozen) surrounded former Pirates pitcher and current Phillies righthander A.J. Burnett in the visiting dugout at PNC Park, a current Pirate and former Phillies pitcher, who had a longer career in Philly than Burnett had in Pittsburgh, talked to a much smaller group across the diamond.

Vance Worley, traded with pitching prospect Trevor May for Ben Revere two Decembers ago, is back in the big leagues. And even though he's been on the Pirates roster for only 20 days, Worley has a poster adorned outside the picturesque, downtown Pittsburgh ballpark.

"They already have one up?" Worley asked, smiling.

A night earlier, the 26-year-old Worley had a no-hitter with one out in the sixth inning. He settled for his fourth straight quality start since joining the Pirates rotation on June 15.

Worley has pitched into the seventh inning in all four of his starts and has a sparkling 2.28 ERA.

So what the heck happened last year, when Worley began the season as the Minnesota Twins' Opening Day starter but found himself with a 7.21 ERA and a trip to Triple A Rochester less than 2 months later?

"Mechanically, I'm back," Worley said.

After the 2012 season, his second full year in the Phillies' rotation, Worley had bone chips removed from his pitching elbow. Worley was healthy when he returned, but his mechanics were not: He said he was "cheating," using his shoulder more.

"When I went over to the Twins, that was something they never noticed," Worley said. "I was flying open, and then you can see everything out of my hand. I changed the mechanics; the next thing I know, I'm in Triple A."

Within the span of 5 days this March, Worley was removed from the Minnesota Twins' 40-man roster and traded to the Pirates for cash. After working as a reliever in late in his last spring with the Twins, Worley was moved back to a starting role while working with the Pirates in extended spring training.

Pirates pitching guru Jeff Benedict, a special assistant to the general manager, who interviewed for the Phillies' pitching coaching job this spring, was the first to uncover Worley's faulty mechanics while the two studied video.

"You're still throwing like you're hurt," Benedict told Worley.

So Worley made a change. And although it's been only four starts, Worley is beginning to resemble the pitcher who went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 games with the Phillies in 2011.

"That's all it was," Worley said of the mechanical fix. "I still have all the turn [in my delivery]. Everything's there. It was just this vs. that. I'm just glad that they believed in me and knew who I was and what I was capable of."

Worley, the Phillies' third round pick in the 2008 draft, still visits Philadelphia regularly. He married his longtime girlfriend, a Philadelphia-area native, in the city in November.

Ruiz improving

A week after he was placed on the 7-day disabled list with concussion symptoms, catcher Carlos Ruiz is beginning to show signs of improvement.

"He's maybe 30 percent better on some tests," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's shown some improvement in the last couple of days."

Ruiz, who was hit by a pitch in the ear two Thursdays ago, failed his initial ImPACT tests. He'll have another on Monday, when he is re-evaluated.

Since Ruiz would be on his 11th straight day without any baseball activity on Monday, he almost certainly will be out until the All-Star break (which begins a week from Monday).

Ruiz, 35, is hitting .257 with two home runs and a .363 OBP in 66 games this season. He has started 63 games this season, fourth in the National League.

Phillers

Domonic Brown returned from a 2-day stint on the paternity list yesterday. Brown, who had a baby girl, could return to the starting lineup today, according to Ryne Sandberg. Aaron Altherr was optioned to Double A to make room for Brown on the active roster . . . Cliff Lee will start a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow when he starts for Class A Clearwater at Brevard County . . . Backup catcher Will Nieves (strained right quadriceps) is scheduled to continue to play rehab games in Clearwater through early next week. Sandberg said Nieves was still "hampered on running full strength" . . . Righthander Jeff Manship (strained right quad) will begin a rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Phillies today.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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