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Vance Worley

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Vance Richard Worley
(The Vanimal)

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Vance Worley made his big league debut at age 22.

Worley hit .349 as a high school sophomore while going 4-3 with a 3.62 ERA. As a senior, he batted .355 and had a 7-1, 1.72 record. He was named the best pitching prospect in Northern California by Baseball America before the 2005 amateur draft. The Philadelphia Phillies took him in the 20th round but he did not sign. Going on to college, Vance was 4-7 with a save and a 3.87 ERA as a freshman. That summer, he was 3-2 with two saves, a 3.03 ERA, 36 K in 35 2/3 IP and a .205 opponent average for the Chatham Athletics of the Cape Cod League. Vance had a 1-2, 3.64 record as a sophomore before an injury ended his season. He was 7-4 with a 4.27 ERA his junior year. The Phillies chose him again, this time in the third round of the 2008 amateur draft and he was signed by scout Tim Kissner. He was the second pitcher they selected, following Jason Knapp in round two. When he signed with the Phillies, he got a bit of unwanted advice: "Cut your hair. Shave. And dump the earrings." A free spirit, Worley did not necessarily appreciate the grooming advice, but as he was told it applied only to his time in the minor leagues, he set about to reach the big leagues as fast as possible.

Worley allowed three hits and one run in eight innings for the 2008 Williamsport Crosscutters then was promoted to the Lakewood BlueClaws, where he had a 3-2, 2.66 record with only 7 walks in 61 innings. In 2009, the right-hander was 7-12 with a 5.34 ERA with the Reading Phillies. He led Phillies farmhands in defeats.

Worley began 2010 with Reading, going 9-4 with a 3.20 ERA. He was promoted to the majors to replace Drew Carpenter. He did well in his one game up this time, relieving Jose Contreras with a 10-2 lead in the 9th against the Rockies. He got Ian Stewart on a fly then fanned both Chris Iannetta and Brad Hawpe. He was then sent back down to AAA Lehigh Valley to make room for J.A. Happ.

Worley was given little chance to pitch for the Phillies in 2011, given the team had assembled an incredible starting rotation featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. However, Blanton went on the disabled list in May, giving Worley a chance to start a few games, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He was outstanding as a starter, taking a place among the league's ERA leaders and proving nearly unbeatable. On August 23rd, he improved to 9-1, winning his 7th straight decision with a 9-4 win over the New York Mets in which he struck out a career-high 9 batters. With that success came a return to a more "personal" look: a flowing mohawk haircut, an unshaven face, designer goggles, and a colorful nickname, "The Vanimal," all helping him to "stand out in the sea of Cy Young Award recipients and 20-game winners on his own staff." He finished the season with a record of 11-3, 3.01 in 25 games, with 119 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings. He was bumped from the starting rotation in favor of the aforementioned veterans in the NLDS, as the Phillies were upset by the St. Louis Cardinals in 5 games. Vance pitched twice in relief and gave up a run on 3 hits and walk in an inning and a third.

Worley did not find quite as much success in 2012 as the Phillies fell in the standings, victims of injuries and poor performances. He made 23 starts, going 6-9, 4.20 with 107 strikeouts in 133 innings. On December 6th, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins along with Trevor May in return for CF Ben Revere. He failed to right things with the Twins in 2013 however, as he made only 10 starts, with a record of 1-5, 7.21. He also made 9 starts in AAA with the Rochester Red Wings, where he had better results: a record of 6-3 and a 3.88 ERA. At the end of spring training in 2014, the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased his contract from the Twins to give the team some pitching depth. He was sent to the AAA Indianapolis Indians to start the year after some extended spring training, where he was 3-2, 4.30 in 7 starts. However, the Pirates were having problems with the health of their starters and called him up in mid-June. He finally began to pitch again as he had back in 2011. In his first 7 games, he went 3-1, 3.10, then on July 28th, he tossed his first career shutout, a 5-0 four-hitter against the San Francisco Giants. It was the second complete game of his career.

Worley's arsenal of pitches features a 90-mph sinker, a slider, a change-up and a cut fastball. His approach is not particularly cerebral: simply pitch, let his catchers do the thinking, and rarely bother to ever shake them off. "I mean, sometimes you see me shaking," Worley says, "but it's not even me shaking. It's them [the catchers] telling me to shake."

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