Pelfrey faces hitters for first time since elbow surgery

Right-hander encouraged by session, hoping to win spot in Twins' rotation

Pelfrey faces hitters for first time since elbow surgery

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey threw to hitters for the first time Saturday since undergoing elbow surgery and said everything felt fine.

Pelfrey, who underwent season-ending surgery to repair pressure on his right ulnar nerve May 2, threw to a group of hitters that included sluggers Kennys Vargas and Miguel Sano. Pelfrey was able to keep his sinker down and induced a good number of ground balls while his former college coach from Wichita State, Gene Stephenson, watched.

"It was fun to get back out there," Pelfrey, 31, said. "It was good to feel good. I'm where I need to be at this time, and something I can keep building on."

At this point last year, Pelfrey was dealing with numbness in two of his fingers but tried to pitch through it. The 6-foot-7 right-hander made just five starts with a 7.99 ERA last year before undergoing his second elbow procedure, after having Tommy John surgery in 2012.

But Pelfrey said he believes those issues are behind him and he's ready to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. Pelfrey, though, faces plenty of competition, including Tommy Milone, Alex Meyer, Trevor May and Tim Stauffer.

"It's a competition and I just need to do the best I can," Pelfrey said. "I know in my mind, if I'm healthy, I can get results. I feel good. This offseason I did a lot of strengthening stuff for my shoulder and arm. A lot to stuff to help myself stay healthy."

If Pelfrey doesn't win a job in the rotation, he's likely headed to the bullpen. He has heard comparisons to the success that Royals right-hander Wade Davis has had since moving to relief. Pelfrey said he's fine with whatever role the Twins decide for him, but given his history, he's hoping he'll show enough to be remain a starter.

"Obviously, my preference is to start because I've done that my whole life," Pelfrey said. "But we'll see what happens."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.