5th Starter Candidate: Mike Pelfrey
Image courtesy of David Richard, USA TodayThe Background
Pelfrey is a big, 6-7, 250 pound right-hander. He was the Mets first round draft pick (ninth overall) in the 2005 draft out of Wichita State. The Scott Boras client came to the Twins before the 2013 season on a one-year contract. He had undergone Tommy John surgery in April of 2012 but reports indicated that he would be ready for Opening Day 2013.
Was he ready? Was he healthy? Either way, the numbers were just not good in 2013. He made 29 starts and pitched 152.2 innings, but he went 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP.
For whatever reason, that performance turned into a two-year extension with the Twins last offseason. Unfortunately, it was another rough season for the veteran. He went 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA and a 1.99 WHIP in five starts before being shut down. He clearly wasn’t healthy as he walked 6.8 per nine in that time.
At Twins Fest, he told a handful of writers, “I feel bad, like I’ve taken money from the Twins. It’s been frustrating. You play this game to play, and compete, and be successful and do it well. Obviously that hasn’t happened.”
He spent the entire 2014 season rehabbing. Recently he said, “Rehab kind of stinks, but we got through it. I felt good. I think if the season had gone maybe another week, I probably could have pitched, maybe out of the bullpen or something just to do it.”
The 31-year-old says that he “got a little extra shoulder program that was more maintenance, strengthening stuff.”
For the first time since 2007, he says, Pelfrey will have to compete for a starting job in spring training. Back then, it really wasn’t a competition. “It was El Duque (Orlando Hernandez) or me, and if he was healthy, it was him.”
The Mets handed Pelfrey the job when Hernandez was injured.
Pelfrey is excited to get spring training and this competition underway. “It’s the first time in a while I have to go in and win a job. I have no one to blame but myself. Staying healthy and not performing… That’s on me.”
Though he has never been front-end starter, he has a couple of years that were very solid.
In 2008, he went 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 200.2 innings. In 2010, he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 204 innings.
Those aren’t great, elite numbers by any means, but if a 2015 Mike Pelfrey can reach 200 innings with a sub-four ERA, Twins fans should be thrilled. That would be terrific for a fifth starter.
Pelfrey understands that there is some quality competition for the fifth starter job.
“There are some young guys with very good arms. Tommy Milone has a pretty good track record too.”
So what if Pelfrey loses the competition for the fifth starter job. Would he be willing to go to the bullpen? “Ultimately, I probably wouldn’t have a choice.”
However, he would embrace it. He understands that it would be an adjustment as he has never really done it before. However, he would see it as another challenge, one he would be up for. “It’s still the same game, it’s pitching.”
However, he isn’t going to go into spring training thinking about a job in the bullpen. “This is the best I’ve felt since before Tommy John surgery. I’m ready to go in and win a job!”
So, if I were to venture a guess for the chances that Mike Pelfrey begins the season as the Twins fifth starter job, it isn’t a simple "No" as many may think. Now healthy, he deserves the opportunity to compete for the position. However, despite being owed $5.5 million for 2015, I would put the odds at only about 20%.
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