With Twins, Vance Worley could start opener

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With Twins, Vance Worley could start opener

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Vance Worley managed to become a fan favorite in Philadelphia despite pitching on a staff that included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Now with the Minnesota Twins, the 25-year-old Californian will have a chance to stand out again. In fact, he could end up being the team's opening day starter.

"It means a lot. It means they trust me to come over from another organization, one," Worley said. "But two, to take the ball on Game 1 -- that's big. That means you mean something to the organization."

It's still a hypothetical for now. The Twins made wholesale changes to their starting rotation, which was a mess last year aside from left-hander Scott Diamond. Worley was acquired in December when Minnesota sent outfielder Ben Revere to the Phillies, and he could be the Twins' top starter if Diamond isn't healthy by the opener.

After a couple starts in 2010, Worley won 11 of his first 12 decisions the following season for Philadelphia. The right-hander's glasses, mohawk and nickname "Vanimal" were all part of his charm. He finished that year 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and was third in the Rookie of the Year vote.

He went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA last year, and when the Phillies wanted to acquire a center fielder, they figured they had enough depth behind Halladay, Lee and Hamels that they could deal Worley.

"Don't get me wrong, I think Vance Worley a couple years ago had a huge rookie year, then last year I think he showed he can pitch," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Twins were happy to take him. Diamond went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA last season, but he had surgery in December to remove a bone spur and chips from his pitching elbow. Minnesota seemingly left no stone unturned while looking for rotation candidates. The Twins signed Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey -- and even brought in Rich Harden on a minor league deal after the right-hander missed all of last season following shoulder surgery.

There was little risk in giving those pitchers a chance, but Minnesota parted ways with a speedy young outfielder to acquire Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May. The Twins also traded center fielder Denard Span to Washington for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer. The pitching makeover is still in progress during spring training.

With the season opener against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers less than six weeks away, the Twins have a lot of decisions still to make. And Worley has a lot of work to do. He reported back Tuesday from a live batting practice session.

"I was telling everybody what was coming, so they were all hacking," Worley said. "Everything came out fine. Everything did what I wanted it to. I was in or around the zone like I wanted, so I felt like I got something accomplished."

Since Worley pitched in the National League, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire hasn't had much of a chance to watch him up close.

"Seen video of him, and that's about it. I think we might have seen him in spring training a little bit, but not very much," Gardenhire said. "We know that he wants the ball, he's going to go at them, he can punch a few guys out here and there. He's pitched in a pretty tough ballpark in Philadelphia, so I think he knows how to work his way around that stuff. We'll see."

Worley has also had a chance to learn from some of the best. With Halladay, Lee and Hamels anchoring the Phillies' staff, he couldn't help but take in a bit of wisdom.

"Go after guys. That's the biggest thing -- pitch with a purpose," Worley said. "Know what you're going to throw and feel confident that you're going to throw it for a strike or locate it where you want it. Make them hit you."

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Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

A day after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, Odubel Herrera is leading off for the Phillies in their series opener Friday night against the Reds (see game notes).

It's the first time Herrera is leading off since last Aug. 19, a span of 84 games.

Cesar Hernandez gets the night off, with Andres Blanco batting second and playing second.

Maikel Franco is back in the six-hole after going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot Thursday. Tommy Joseph bats fourth and Michael Saunders fifth.

Cameron Rupp, who walked three times in Thursday's win over the Rockies, catches Aaron Nola and bats seventh.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Andres Blanco, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Aaron Nola, P

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies (16-29) vs. Reds (22-24)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Following their first win in a week, the Phillies open a new series this weekend against a beatable team in the Cincinnati Reds, who are 3-9 in their last 12 games and 1-7 in their last eight road games.

Let's have ourselves a look-see:

1. Nola's turn
Aaron Nola is on the mound tonight for his second start since a month-long DL stint. He was extremely impressive his last time out, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Pittsburgh.

Nola's fastball reached as high as 95.5 mph against the Pirates, which is notable because he threw only two pitches faster than 94 mph all of last season. His velocity was up before the lower back strain and it's a great sign that the elbow injury which ended his 2016 season is truly in the past.

In Pittsburgh, Nola (2-1, 3.52) threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes. He got 11 outs on the first three pitches of at-bats. 

He's faced the Reds twice in his career and dominated them both times, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings with one walk and 17 strikeouts.

Current Reds have gone 7 fo 39 (.179) against him with just two extra-base hits. Joey Votto is 0 for 5.

2. What to do with Odubel
Pete Mackanin has an interesting decision to make this weekend with slumping Odubel Herrera, who on Thursday became the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in a game.

Herrera is down to .226 on the season with a .275 on-base percentage. In May, he's hit .194 with one walk and 28 strikeouts.

Mackanin could bench Herrera like he did with Maikel Franco for two games earlier this week. It would send a message to the player that poor at-bats and wild swings have consequences. And, quite frankly, sitting Herrera for a day or two might give the Phillies a better chance to win.

The issue, of course, is that there's a thin line between giving a player a chance to clear his head and ridding him of opportunities to get back on track.

Plus, the Phillies don't have great options in replacing Herrera in the lineup. They have a four-man bench at the moment and the only options would be putting Ty Kelly or Brock Stassi in left field and moving Aaron Altherr to center.

(Update: Mackanin is taking the opposite approach with Herrera, leading him off Friday night.)

Herrera just has not been himself this season and it's troubling. At this point last season, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. He's been an undisciplined hitter in 2017 and when you have two of them in the middle of the lineup in Herrera and Franco, it makes things really easy on pitchers at times.

Herrera started the year hot, hitting in his first eight games. Since then, he's hit .203/.239/.324 in 155 plate appearances with six walks and 42 K's.

3. Tommy time
Tommy Joseph has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this month, batting .329/.400/.671 with six doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games.

He's 148 games and 499 plate appearances into his major-league career and has hit .257 with 23 doubles, 28 homers, 69 RBIs and an .804 OPS. That's about 10 points higher than the league average OPS from first basemen over that span.

Had Joseph's April slump continued into May, prospect Rhys Hoskins might have already been called up. But Joseph has done enough so far to hold off Hoskins, who appears to have more upside because of his combination of power and plate selection.

Controlling the strike zone is the next step for Joseph. He has a .311 OBP so far with 33 walks and 112 strikeouts as a Phillie.

But over the last two seasons, he's been one of the few Phils who's taken advantage of this ballpark. Joseph's hit .276 with an .844 OPS at Citizens Bank Park compared to .240 with a .769 OPS on the road.

4. Scouting the Reds
The Phillies face 29-year-old Reds right-hander Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19).

You look at the ERA and think, OK, maybe the Phillies' bats will wake up tonight. But keep in mind that the Rockies' four starting pitchers this week entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA and the Phillies scored three runs against them in 27 innings.

There's nothing special about the 6-foot-5 Adleman. He throws his fastball and sinker in the 88 to 91 mph range with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. His opponents have hit .300 against his fastball and have eight extra-base hits with a .290 batting average against his changeup.

In six starts this season, Adleman's yet to go deeper than six innings. The Phils faced him last season and scored three runs in five innings. Cesar Hernandez went 2 for 2 with a walk and Franco went 1 for 3 with a double.

As for Cincinnati's offense, Votto is obviously the hitter you worry about most. He's hit .299/.422/.591 this season with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs, 35 walks and 24 strikeouts. A typical Votto season.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has been surprisingly hot these first two months, hitting .340 with 20 extra-base hits, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts. It's most surprising to see him walking this much because he never has. He's 15 walks away from matching his career high.

Leftfielder Adam Duvall has killed the Phillies over the last two seasons. He went 5 for 11 with two doubles and a homer in the season-opening series in Cincy and went 8 for 18 with four doubles against them last season.

5. This and that
• Over the last seven games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 22⅔ innings.

• Howie Kendrick started at third base for Lehigh Valley during his rehab assignment Thursday. He was hit by two pitches and removed from the game.  

• Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. He's 8 for 8 in save chances this season with a 0.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's struck out 28 and allowed just one home run in 24⅔ innings. His ability to go multiple innings is what makes him stand out — he's Andrew Miller-like in that regard. Iglesias has pitched more than one inning in 7 of his 19 appearances.