Monday, March 30, 2015

Anger Could Serve Pelfrey Well

Mike Pelfrey was not at all happy to hear that he would not be a part of the Minnesota Twins Opening Day starting rotation. He was under the impression that there would be an open competition, and feeling as though he was not outpitched, it seemed like anything but that took place. Anger set in, a trade was even mentioned, but in the heat of the moment, that's exactly what we should have expected from Mike Pelfrey. Now with his first appearance as a reliever under his belt, the anger may actually suit him.

Over the course of his nine year major league career, Mike Pelfrey has started all but four games that he has pitched in. With 183 starts under his belt, a transition to a relief role was no doubt going to cause some pause. Without the glamour of being given the ball to start a game, Pelfrey instead will be relegated to being one of the guys in the pen. Although it's uncharted territory, this could actually be the way in which Pelfrey saves his career.

To be fair, Pelfrey is lucky to have had a guaranteed contract coming into spring training. Owning a 5.56 ERA over the course of the past two seasons (in which he started 34 games), the returns haven't been pretty. Pelfrey has allowed 10.9 hits per nine innings, while walking 3.6 batters per nine and striking out only 5.7. No doubt those are numbers that have contributed to a Twins team posting 90 losses in each of those seasons. On top of that, there are the injury issues. Pitching in just 37 games since 2012, staying on the field has been a problem in and of itself. With capable starters (both of whom possess higher ceilings), Tommy Milone and Trevor May, ahead of him, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Big Pelf.

When the news came, anger is the emotion that was displayed. From a competitor, it would be relatively shocking if there was no displeasure in being passed over. Suggesting a trade might have been out of line by Pelfrey, but no doubt it's an avenue the Twins could have explored. Teams like the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, and even Boston Red Sox may be looking for a starter. Someone with Pelfrey's recent track record isn't going to net much however, and the Twins made a different decision.

Now it's time for Pelfrey to meet the bullpen.

On Sunday, the former starter made his first appearance in a relief capacity. There were obvious differences as Pelfrey noted that he threw just 12 pitches to warm up rather than his typical 60 or so. He also was worried about making sure he looked the part running in from the outfield saying, "I tried to jog out there as athletically as I could and look kind of good doing it maybe." There's no doubt that the new role is going to take some adjustments, but Sunday was a good first step. In one inning of relief, Pelfrey was perfect getting all three outs.

Exactly what role he occupies out of the pen remains to be seen. The Twins would figure to use Tim Stauffer as their long reliever, but Pelfrey could profile into that role as well. He could also become a late inning guy asked to ramp up his pitch speed. Sitting around 94 miles per hour as a starter, it's conceivable Pelfrey could touch the upper 90s in a relief role.

At the end of the day, the Twins understand that Pelfrey becomes the biggest asset by pitching out of their bullpen. After all, the blueprint for success was laid in the division a season ago. Wade Davis, a former starter, became a full time reliever a season ago and pitched in 71 games compiling a 1.00 ERA and 13.6 K/9. No doubt that's the gold standard, but if Pelfrey can use his frustration for missing out on the starting rotation to push towards those marks, the Twins will be more than pleased.

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