Worley taking measures to stay a step ahead
Phillies righty developing changeup for sophomore campaign
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- This is a season about adjustments for Vance Worley.
He got a good suggestion for one just a few weeks ago.
During a bullpen session at Carpenter Complex, Roy Halladay wandered over to Worley and showed him the grip to his split-fingered changeup.
"Just mess with it," Halladay told Worley.
"I tried it. It came out good," Worley said after allowing five hits and two runs in two innings Wednesday in a 10-3 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. "I worked with the other catchers, and they all said the same thing -- the rotation is good, comes out like a fastball. I just need to fine-tune it."
Worley was one of the biggest surprises in baseball last season. He went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 appearances (21 starts), finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Last season, he entered Spring Training trying to win a job. This season, he is either the fourth or fifth starter, a lock to make the team out of camp.
Now he just needs to make sure National League hitters don't catch up with him.
The split-fingered changeup -- it's also the same grip Kyle Kendrick uses -- is one way Worley plans to stay ahead of the opposition. Worley relied heavily on his sinker last season, while also throwing a cut fastball, slider and curveball. A changeup would provide a huge benefit, because it would upset the timing of the hitters looking for his fastball.
"My sinker was my best pitch, the first pitch and the last pitch," Worley said. "It was just something I could go to. The cutter was kind of new last year. I threw some good cutters in there today, and I think it's going to be good for me. The curveball, I think I was 1-for-2 on strikes with that today, and I didn't throw a whole lot of those last year. So I need a third pitch. If I can get the change or curve to be more effective, it's going to help me out."
It would help, because hitters tend to pick up patterns, and Worley felt hitters might have started to predict what was coming later in the season.
If he can throw the changeup for strikes, it will give hitters something else to think about.
"He got away from his changeup last season," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "But again, he's having success [during his rookie season]. He's seeing a team one time. Now he's going to see teams over and over again. People make adjustments and he has to adjust back. ... He's another young guy that had a usable changeup, but it wasn't completely effective. We're looking for another avenue. We've had some success with Doc picking it up, and Kyle picking it up, so if we can get him better that's what we're here for."
Worley is hoping to build upon a successful season in which he established himself as a fan favorite -- partially because of the distinctive glasses he wore on the mound and mohawk he sported in postgame interviews, but also because he could pitch and pitch well.
He is confident he will avoid the struggles other pitchers faced when they couldn't make adjustments from their rookie seasons.
"That's what I like to do," Worley said. "I like to prove people wrong, so I'm going to do well and show everybody I can do well and I'll wave at them as I go by."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.