Even though it was just a spring training outing, Vance Worley pitched as if it were Game Seven of the World Series. Worley struck out eight in four perfect innings to lead the Philadelphia Phillies past the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 Monday.
The Pirates did not hit a ball out of the infield against Worley. The hard-throwing righty struck out two batters in each inning, dominating the Pirates with a mix of cutters, sinkers and curveballs.
"It's too early to strike out a bunch of guys," Worley said. "I'd rather get contact, because that helps you get deeper into games. Today, I happened to get a lot of swings and misses and some takes in there, too. If they're going to give them to me, I'll take them."
In his first outing this spring, Worley gave up two runs and five hits in two innings against the Houston Astros. He stewed about it for four days until he faced the Pirates. "I sat on my couch and thought about it, even though you're not supposed to think about it," Worley said. "I basically said, 'I know I'm better than that.' I wasn't going to let it happen again. I had a little fire in me today."
The 24-year-old Worley went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA last season and finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He ranked second among NL rookies in wins and fourth in strikeouts (119). Yet, he is not taking a spot in the starting rotation for granted this spring. "I'm not going to say that I worry," Worley said. "But it's definitely a thought in the back of my mind that if I don't have success, it's not guaranteed that the job's mine. I have to earn it."
Making his spring training debut, Pirates starter Charlie Morton went two innings, allowed four hits and struck out two. The right-hander had hip surgery in October and is about a week behind the other pitchers in camp. He expects to be ready for opening day.
The Phillies got solo home runs from Hector Luna and Jimmy Rollins. Luna homered in the fourth off reliever Chris Resop. Rollins went deep in the fifth against lefty Tony Watson. The Pirates were hitless until the seventh inning, when Gorkys Hernandez reached on an infield single. Hernandez stole second and scored on an error by third baseman Michael Martinez.
After collecting at least 10 hits in six straight games, the Pirates have gotten a total of six hits in their past two games.
"I didn't get too giggly when we had the six consecutive games," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It is what it is right now. We've got guys working on things. You never like to get shut down like we have been, but we're going to keep working."
Meanwhile, Jim Thome returned to the field as a first baseman for the first time since 2007 and completed four uneventful innings. Thome had one ball hit to him and it was a spinning sort of cue shot by Lisalberto Bonilla in the fourth inning. The ball skipped past Thome, but he believes he'll be making those plays before too long.
"Defense, for me, is something that I've always had to work especially hard at," explained Thome. "Hopefully, I can keep working at it and it will get better."
Thome believes the big test comes today when he is able to see if his chronically bad back gives him any problems after yesterday's test drive. Thome stated that he could feel the effects of crouching and bending while he was in the field, but attributed it to the fact that he just hasn't had to do those things in a while.