Worley's worth proving invaluable to Pirates

Worley's worth proving invaluable to Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- One of the most valuable, if also most overlooked, members of the Pirates' 2013 playoff pitching staff was Jeanmar Gomez, who filled all of his roles well. As the long man in the bullpen, Gomez went 2-0 in 26 games with a .235 opponents average. In his spot starts, the Bucs went 8-0.

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Vance Worley could be Gomez 2.0 for the '15 Pirates.

From being virtually ignored for three weeks, due to the rotation excellence that made a long reliever a needless accessory, Worley has rapidly earned Clint Hurdle's gratitude.

There is a reason you saw the manager give the veteran right-hander a sincere hug when he finished his three shutout inning turn in Thursday night's eventual 13-inning, 5-4 loss to the Reds.

"Worley … he's gone over and beyond the call of duty," Hurdle said prior to Friday night's game with the Braves, surveying the pitcher's week.

And what a week it has been -- especially since, previously, Worley had thrown exactly one pitch during the entire month of June. Worley, of course, had to give up his spot in the rotation when Charlie Morton came off the DL on May 25. And wouldn't you know -- in the current rotation's last go-around, Worley has pitched 9 1/3 innings and thrown 128 pitches while …

Francisco Liriano went 5 2/3 innings on 93 pitches
• Morton went 2/3 of an inning on 43 pitches
Jeff Locke went four innings on 80 pitches
Gerrit Cole went 4 2/3 innings on 106 pitches, and
A.J. Burnett went six innings on 110 pitches.

Thursday, on three days rest since his 4 1/3-inning Sunday turn in Washington, Worley was asked about his availability as extra innings loomed possible.

"I said, 'I can give you one [inning]. Maybe two.' It turned into three," Worley said with a smile.

Those three prevented Hurdle from calling on a couple of other drained relievers.

"After three days down, he makes 41 pitches," Hurdle said, "and kept us away from [Chris] Volstad, who pitched the night before, and from [Jared] Hughes, who had pitched on back-to-back nights. [Worley's] volume of work has been significant."

And significantly sharp. The one-pitch loss to Atlanta, on Christian Bethancourt's opposite-field homer, may stand out in your mind. However, around that outing, Worley has totaled 17 1/3 innings in six relief appearances, and allowed one earned run (0.52 ERA) with 14 strikeouts to two walks.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.