Pelfrey returns to form with first win since 2013

Pelfrey returns to form with first win since 2013

KANSAS CITY -- Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey insisted throughout Spring Training that he's finally healthy and ready to prove he can be a quality starting pitcher.

Pelfrey almost didn't get that chance, as he was moved to the bullpen shortly before the start of the season, only to join the rotation due to Ervin Santana's 80-game suspension. But Pelfrey has made the most of it so far, and it was evident on Wednesday night, as he turned his best performance in a Twins uniform in a 3-0 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

"I think going into the offseason, I was at a crossroads at my career," Pelfrey said. "I busted my tail to come back. I wanted to be a starting pitcher. It didn't happen the way I envisioned it, but I'm thankful to get this opportunity and I hope I can run with it."

Pelfrey hadn't tossed seven innings without allowing an earned run since Sept. 14, 2011, while he was with the Mets. But he allowed two unearned runs that day, so his last outing with at least seven scoreless frames came on Aug. 27, 2010. It was also Pelfrey's first win since Aug. 20, 2013, as he was winless through his last 13 starts.

Twins manager Paul Molitor gave Pelfrey the game ball and congratulated him for the victory after all of his hard work. Pelfrey, a Wichita, Kan., native, had his family in attendance so he gave the ball to his mom.

"We needed a strong performance and it's his first win in 18 months, so it's been a long time," Molitor said. "The guy had to go through rehab, fighting for a spot, not getting an opportunity and then getting an opportunity. You appreciate a guy who toils, but then gets a little dividend here."

Pelfrey struggled last year, as he never even got through six innings in any of his five starts before season-ending elbow surgery in May. He also only reached the seven-inning mark in two of his 29 outings in 2013, when he was coming off Tommy John surgery.

Pelfrey escapes bases-loaded jam

The right-hander was effective throughout his outing, as Pelfrey really only labored in the first and fifth innings. He loaded the bases with two out in the fifth, but he was able to get Eric Hosmer to ground out to first.

"It was a sinker and luckily he rolled over it," Pelfrey said. "I made a pitch when I had to there."

Pelfrey improved to 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his three outings this year, which is setting the Twins up for a tough decision once right-hander Ricky Nolasco returns from the 15-day disabled list in early May, as right-hander Trevor May has also fared well.

So while Wednesday's outing was a good sign, Pelfrey said he's ready to move past it, but he believes it's a step in the right direction.

"It's just one start so I don't want to make a big deal about it," Pelfrey said. "But I hope to build off it."

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.