CLEARWATER, Fla. — And on the fifth day, The Vanimal started.
Vance Worley is the last Phillies starter to make his spring debut. It'll come against the Houston Astros at Bright House Field. Worley has a tall task; repeating a 3.01 ERA from his rookie season. He noticed hitters beginning to catch up to his stuff later in the season. Change is needed.
We detailed Worley's plan a few weeks ago. Part of it:
The book was out: With two strikes, expect Worley to throw the sinker, usually inside. In 2011, 55 percent of Worley's strikeouts were looking. The major-league average was 24 percent, and only New York's Bartolo Colon had a higher percentage looking than Worley. In other words, Worley can expect more swings on two-strike counts if he keeps throwing the sinker the way he did last year.
Schneider, who emerged as Worley's personal catcher, said he's already sat down with Worley to formulate a plan of attack. They will use the late-spring Grapefruit League games to implement it. Schneider won't completely abandon the sinker. It's a devastating pitch - and Worley's best. But they can use it differently.
"We can throw it earlier in the count and not just wait for two strikes," Schneider said. "At the end of the year, we started setting the pitch up more by throwing one or two pitches away. Or maybe instead of throwing the sinker in there, we'd throw a four-seamer or a cutter in there and get them thinking."
On Wednesday, Worley will likely just focus on getting his work in. Later in the spring, the adaptation will be fully implemented.
The lineup behind Worley:
1. Jimmy Rollins 6
2. Shane Victorino 8
3. Hunter Pence 9
4. Jim Thome 0
5. John Mayberry Jr. 3
6. Laynce Nix 7
7. Kevin Frandsen 5
8. Erik Kratz 2
9. Michael Martinez 4
Pitching after Worley: Pat Misch, Jonathan Papelbon, Dontrelle Willis, Chad Qualls and Mike Stutes.
Nix has dealt with a groin or hamstring issue this spring (Charlie Manuel has mentioned both as ailments). This will be his first appearance in the field.
Frandsen, Martinez and Mayberry have played in every game so far. So have Ty Wigginton, Hector Luna, Freddy Galvis, Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik. Who will be the ultimate survivor this spring? Drama.
The lone player other than Ryan Howard and Chase Utley yet to see game action is infielder Harold Garcia. The 25-year-old Venezuelan hit .305 at Clearwater and Reading at age 23 in 2010 but missed almost all of 2011 with a torn ACL. He played this winter in Venezuela but was seen wearing a brace on his right knee Wednesday morning. Not a good sign for him.
Bud Norris tosses for Houston, who could bring prospects Jonathan Singleton and Jonathan Villar.
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