After many rumors, the Minnesota Twins announced their third free agent signing of the offseason in mid-December. After signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, the Twins re-signed Mike Pelfrey to a two-year contract that has several achievable incentives. He is excited to be back, and so are a couple of the Twins young pitchers.
According to Pelfrey, “I had another offer on the table. It wasn’t where I wanted to be. Also, Terry Ryan was pretty tough at negotiations. He said ‘take it or leave it.’ I said, ‘Hey Terry, I’m going to take it. I want to come back. I told you that all along.’”
His teammates were encouraging him throughout the process and excited when he finally signed. He said, “I’d get texts from guys saying ‘How come you haven’t signed yet?, and I’d say, ‘Hey, if they wanted to sign me back, they would have done it by now, OK.’ So, we’d be go back and forth and joke around.”
Why did Pelfrey want to return to the organization? There were several reasons, but the people had a lot to do with it. “This organization is great. A lot of very good dudes to be around. So I’m obviously excited to come back and see those guys.”
However, that isn’t enough for him. He has goals for himself, but also for his team. “The only other thing is we’ve got to win. That’s the thing that we’re missing. We had fun last year, but winning is fun. We need to get that back.”
So, why does he think that winning may be on the horizon? “I honestly believe that we’re heading in the right direction. We have Buxton. We have Sano.”
He also singled out one prospect that he is really excited about. “We have Alex Meyer, who I think that, when he is ready, he’ll be the ace of the staff. His stuff is that good. I’m a huge believer in him.”
So, what is it that he likes about Meyer and how good he can become? Pelfrey commented, “He’s got the best stuff on the team. No offense to anyone else on the team. He’s got the best stuff. He just does. I think when he realizes that, and harnesses that a little bit, he’s going to be dominant. He’s 6-9, throws downhill, mid-to-upper-90s. He’s got a pretty good breaking ball, but just needs to harness it and pull it together which is going to happen with a little more seasoning. You know, that power-strikeout guy that this organization has been wanting and fans have been wanting, I think he’s coming. I think when he’s ready, which is maybe in spring, maybe later on the year, that they’re going to make room for him and he’s going to be an impact guy.”
Meyer also spoke highly of Pelfrey. Meyer said, “I was really happy about Pelfrey coming back. I really liked Mike a lot. He talked to me a lot in spring training. He took me out to dinner a couple of times, just to talk. We have the same agent. That’s kind of how it fell into place. It was good for me to be out there and be around him. I’m excited to go out there and learn from him. When Rick Anderson called me and told me ‘I put you in the same group in spring training as Mike Pelfrey so he can show you the way.’”
Meyer isn’t the only young Twins pitcher who has leaned on Pelfrey. Kyle Gibson had some ups and downs in his first big league campaign, but Pelfrey was the guy he leaned on too. “I think some of it was he went through the same surgery, pretty similar timelines. Maybe because he’s just a funny guy and likes to talk a lot and that’s how I am too. He was really helpful. He’s real easy to talk to, real easy to ask questions to.”
Pelfrey is looking forward to starting over after a rough return from Tommy John surgery in 2013 with the Twins. What is his personal goal for 2014? “I think you go in, your goal is always 200 innings. Even last year, coming off surgery. They said they were going to put me on an innings limit. Save it. My goal was 200 innings. But my goal was 200 innings and I fell way short of it. At the end of the year, there was no other way to put it. I had a bad year. Coming off surgery or not coming off surgery, whatever, I had a bad year. I definitely need to get back to what I had done years before.”
He acknowledged that although he is a competitor and wanted to come back, he may have come back too quickly. The mental aspect of his return may have been just as difficult as the physical. “I think the mental part is fully trusting that you’re ok, that you can let it go and snap it at the end. I thought I got through that. It’s all mental. I talked about the physical part of it, the feel, which I couldn’t get until month 13. I think it’s a little bit of both (physical and mental) and getting that assurance back that you’re really OK.”
With the additions the team has made this offseason, Pelfrey feels good about the 2014 Twins. “Obviously going into the offseason having the highest ERA in baseball as a starting staff is definitely not acceptable or what we expected. I think they knew that was an area of need and they went out and addressed it. The inner competition that you can create among each other is good and brings out the best out of people. It’ll be good. I think, looking at the rotation, we’ll have a chance to win every night. Guys are going to give us a chance to be in the ball game and have a chance. Hopefully we’ll go and do that and win a lot more games.”
It goes back to why Pelfrey wanted to return to the Twins. “This organization is going to turn it around in a hurry as long as everything works out. I think things are changing and we’re heading in the right direction.”
Fans of the Minnesota Twins who have endured the past three seasons certainly hope that is true too!