By Chris Murray
For the CM Report
I don’t know if Phillies rookie pitcher Vance Worley is ever going to mature into a top flight No.1 starter and a perennial All-Star/Cy Young Award winner.
Some observers have said Worley would be a four or five stater at best, but Worley keeps winning and getting guys out when he’s starting game on the mound. His pitches aren’t overwhelming enough to conjure up images of Nolan Ryan or Bob Gibson. Worley’s appearance with his mohawk underneath his cap and glasses might be more like the fictional character Rickie “Wild Thing” Vaughn from the movie, Major League.”
But Worley is far from that “Wild Thing” character in the movies. While he is a young guy who is enjoying his time in the majors, he is not only a good pitcher who can mix his pitches well, but he has a lot of moxie from what we’ve seen thus far and seems to thrive on pressure situations.
Teams have seen him more than enough times to figure him out and write the book on him. So far, they haven’t quite figured him out yet. With a 10-1 record and a .285 earned run average, Worley keeps finding ways to stay one step ahead of opposing batters.
In his latest outing against the Cincinnati Reds, Worley struck out seven, but allowed four runs in the Phillies 6-4 win to complete a sweep of a four-game series.
Whatever Worley has lacked in the speed of his pitches, he has certainly made up for it with guts and guile. Throughout his brief time with the Phillies, the 23-year-old Worley has faced his fair share of tough moments on the mound this season. In a recent outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he got roughed up for six runs and six hits in four innings, but he’s bounced back in his last two outings , allowing just one earned run.
In those situations, Worley has managed to calmly pitch his way out of those situations without letting things get under his skin. Perhaps a good example of this was outing against the New York Mets. In the second inning of that game, Worley allowed a single and a double and appeared to be headed for a short night.
But Worley, not fazed by the situation, went on to strike out the next three batters looking and then cruised the rest of the way for his ninth win of the season.
“It says a lot about his own belief in himself and its says a lot about his confidence and about his maturity,” said Phillies reliever Brad Lidge. “It’s one thing to not fold in that situation, but it’s another thing to punch out three guys in a row like he did. I think he’s got a lot of weapons and I think he feels good about them. He’s proud of his arsenal and I think he’s not all scared out there. He’s not at all timid. He doesn’t pitch like a first-year guy.”
Meanwhile, Worley said he recognizes that there are going to be times when he’s going to struggle, but it’s all about figuring out a way to fight his way out of it.
“It’s all about going out there and competing,” Worley said. “You’re going to find yourself in trouble at times and it’s just being able to go out there and fix it.
“It’s a big deal to be able to get out of those situations… To find yourself getting in trouble and being able to battle out of it is always going to be a confidence booster.”
What makes him a good pitcher beyond his fast ball, curve ball, changeup, and sinker, Worley is good at hiding the ball from hitters while keeping them off-balance. Lidge said Worley has done a good job of countering the adjustments that hitters make to him after they’ve seen him about three or four times.
“He’s going to be fine because his stuff is good enough where even if guys see him a bunch, he can keep mixing it up,” Lidge said. “He throws three or four really good pitches. It’s not like guys can go up there and say it was his fast ball that we couldn’t hit his fastball. I think he hides the ball a little bit.”
While he probably won’t be a starter in the postseason for the Phillies, I can definitely see Worley pitching in a pressure long or middle relief situation in the playoffs without fear of facing down a difficult situation. That’s something he’s done all year.