Frustration is a word that has followed Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey around for a while. Whether it was how he pitched on his road back from Tommy John surgery, to the surgery itself or even just the puzzling season he had last year when he gave the team virtually nothing in terms of production, the word frustration has been on the front burner as it pertains to Pelfrey.
But don’t think for a second that the pitcher himself isn’t frustrated, too.
“That’s all I’ve ever really known is to go out there and pitch,” Pelfrey said. “Whether I’m right or not, I want to pitch.”
And it was that mentality that willed him back from elbow surgery in less than a year. In fact, he was throwing in spring training games a lot earlier than that. “We’re in spring training and it’s been nine-and-a-half months and I’m pitching in a game, and I’m thinking ‘Man, I worked my butt off, but this is way too early,’” Pelfrey said of 2013, his first season with the Twins after spending seven seasons in Queens with the New York Mets. “But I felt OK doing it.”
Pelfrey admits he probably wouldn’t have come back as fast as he did knowing all he does now, but he showed enough in stretches in the second half of 2013 to convince the Twins to re-sign him to a two-year deal which expires at the end of this season.
To say early returns on that deal were iffy would be putting it nicely, as Pelfrey gave the Twins just five winless starts with a 7.99 ERA before hitting the disabled list after an ugly May Day start against the Dodgers. He wouldn’t see the big leagues again all season, and to hear Pelfrey tell it, he was just about ready to be finished.
“If I didn’t have one more year left (on his current deal), I would have walked off last year on my rehab assignment in Rochester,” Pelfrey said. “And I said this year, if I don’t perform and stay healthy, I’m coming home. This is going to be it for me in 2015.”
He’s not close to crossing that bridge right now, however. In fact, and this probably won’t come as any surprise, Pelfrey says this is the best he’s felt with the club. “It I could go back, I’d have probably taken a step back and I probably would have said something at the beginning of last year. I’d have said ‘Hey, I’m not right. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’m totally not right.’ But right now, this is definitely the best I’ve felt.”
And while underlying peripheral statistics say otherwise, Pelfrey’s early-season results have been generally positive. Not only has he been among MLB’s best in terms of added velocity in early-season action, but he’s returned to his heavy groundballing ways — a career-best 58.3 percent rate as of this writing — thanks to a new program that he picked up in the offseason.
“I did a lot of shoulder strengthening stuff this offseason through a weighted ball program, and I think it’s really helped,” Pelfrey said. The program is the brainchild of Dr. Tom House, who is better known for his time as Texas Rangers pitching coach 20 years ago as well as his stint with USC baseball and his tutelage of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who are better known as the Indian pitchers from “Million Dollar Arm.”
House’s methods are unconventional — he’s famous for having his pitchers throw footballs, something Pelfrey said is part of his program but not part of his in-season regimen — but he has gotten results, and he seems to have Pelfrey’s endorsement.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done it,” Pelfrey said of the program which is called Velocity Plus Arm Care. “One day I went and looked it up and paid $500 just to do it. They sent me a program and these balls. I did it religiously, and I think it’s a big thing.” The first thing Pelfrey noticed in the spring after putting in the work with the program was not only how good he felt but the movement of his pitches. “For the first time in a couple years, I didn’t have to make the ball move,” Pelfrey said. “It was just doing it on its own.” There’s little doubt that increased movement has led to Pelfrey’s increase in ground balls, something that’ll remain a key issue for him as long as his strikeout rate remains below the league average.
In the end, all Pelfrey wants to do is pitch. He was admittedly frustrated about the potential move to the bullpen, but he said that stemmed from frustration after all the work he put in to get healthy and work as a starter. That would appear to just be a part of Pelfrey’s makeup as a competitor, because by his own admission, all he wants to do is get on the mound.
“Everybody wants to talk about the money and all that stuff,” Pelfrey said. “I couldn’t care less. I want to pitch.”
—TWINS BY THE NUMBERS.306
– The Twins’ team wOBA — a number that takes all offensive contributions and adjusts them into a tidy little number that is scaled to on-base percentage. The Twins’ latest surge has them up to 22nd across the league, after languishing at the bottom in early-season play.4
– Just four teams have fewer steals than the Twins with 10 (Dodgers, Rockies, White Sox and Nationals). The Twins have also been caught on nine occasions, for a paltry 52.6 percent rate of success. Generally speaking, teams would ideally steal bases at about a 75 percent clip to make it worth the risk.21.1 percent
– The Twins’ team strikeout rate, which is the ninth-highest in baseball..317
– The Twins’ collective BABIP (batting average on balls in play). This is generally a pretty good indicator of batted-ball luck. At .317, the Twins stand a pretty good chance of regressing back to the mean.10
– Number of intentional walks the offense has drawn as a unit. Only five teams have drawn more.8
– Number of bunt hits for the Twins — No. 1 across the MLB.This content originally appeared at Cold Omaha here. Please click through to support it.