Bernie Pleskoff

Worley worthy of spot in vaunted Phils rotation

Pleskoff: Worley worthy of spot in Phils' rotation

Worley worthy of spot in vaunted Phils rotation
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have earned a tremendous amount of attention and admiration as a trio of All-Star-quality starting pitchers. Each has the ability to stop a losing streak.

Actually, each has the ability to assure Philadelphia avoids losing streaks. The Phillies' reputation as having among the best starting staff's in baseball is well-deserved.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say the rotation is even more effective because of the presence of right-hander Vance Worley. He may be the fourth starter on the staff, but Worley is efficient and reliable. He can be counted upon to give his team a good outing every time out. He doesn't have the household name like the others, but Worley is quickly gaining attention and admiration.

I had the opportunity to see Worley pitch once again when he recently started in Phoenix against the D-backs.

Vance Worley played the infield and pitched a little when he attended McClatchy High School in Sacramento, Calif. Following graduation, he was selected by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing, Worley attended Cal State-Long Beach, where he once again caught the eye of the Phillies and was drafted by them in the third round in '08. That time, he signed.

Worley said he was always concerned in high school that he wasn't big enough to compete, but looking at him now, it is hard to believe he could have ever been anything less than larger-than-life.

Worley is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound mass of muscle and strength. His upper body and stocky build reminds one of a weight lifter or a middle linebacker. But make no mistake, Worley is very much a pitcher -- one who improves with almost every start.

Worley is not overpowering on the mound. He is not one to throw his strength around and intimidate hitters. Rather, he is a very solid hurler with a very good "feel" for pitching. He can look menacing to the hitter, wearing white goggles and strolling around pounding his glove between pitches. He's just a big, impressive-looking guy.

I have no doubt his team plays the game with great comfort when he's starting. Worley just sends a very confident vibe. In a word, Worley is a competitor. Don't try to take food off his table. He will defend his turf. He will do whatever it takes within the limitations of the game and within his own strong work ethic to win.

Off the mound, Worley is an engaging, warm and charismatic person. And without a doubt, his Mohawk haircut just adds additional charm and panache to his overall presentation.

Worley doesn't want the hitter to feel too comfortable at the plate. Truth is, he has refined command and control that allows him the ability to pitch inside without negative ramifications. He uses the entire plate to his advantage. Worley pitches up and down and in and out. Every one of his pitches seems to move on purpose, by design.

Worley's mechanics are a bit different and unconventional, but they work for him. While he takes charge out on the mound, it isn't always pretty. His herky-jerky type motion makes it very difficult for the hitter to see the ball coming out of his hand. Worley not only hides it well, his delivery is such that he twists and throws across his body just enough to add deception at his release point.

Worley is the type of pitcher who gets lots of called strikes because he's around the plate and within the strike zone most of the night. He has the skill to keep the ball down and out of the eyes of the hitter. His physical strength is among the reasons he can sustain and repeat his delivery without constant injury.

I was impressed with the fact Worley got upset after he allowed a home run to the D-backs' Cody Ransom in the game I watched. The big right-hander didn't lose composure, but he kicked it into a different gear once the ball left the yard. He wasn't about to let that happen again, and it didn't.

Worley comes right after hitters with a repertoire that includes a two-seam (sinking) and four-seam (rising) fastball, a slider/cutter type of pitch, an outstanding curveball and an occasional changeup. He can command each of those pitches, having confidence to throw them in any count.

Worley might be at his best when he falls behind in the count. A pitcher with a vast arsenal like his can become rather umpire-dependent. With so much movement on different types of pitches, called strikes become important. If a pitcher keeps missing, he has to get more of the plate to get the strike calls or induce swings by the hitter.

Worley knows how and when to reduce his own risk level regarding pitch selection and location. In his Major League career to date, his walk rate has been 3.1 per nine innings, his strikeout rate has been 8.4 per nine, and he induces plenty of ground balls. He has a very respectable Major League career WHIP of 1.208 in parts of three seasons. All those statistics point to high-quality pitch management.

Worley, 24, has a tremendous future as a starting pitcher. He can take his place among the stable of super-starters in the Phillies' rotation as an equal stakeholder. He can still learn and refine his technique from great colleagues like Halladay, Lee and Hamels.

Given his limited Major League experience and his age, health and makeup, Worley has upside remaining as a starting pitcher. Already extremely highly regarded, he should be a fixture in the Phillies' rotation for years to come.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.