Where Are They Now: Vance Worley to the Minors

Where Are They Now: Vance Worley to the Minors

The Twins are second only to the Houston Astros for the worst team earned run average among starting pitchers in Major League Baseball (5.69), so it’s a sad state of affairs for any hurler who can’t crack that rotation – especially one that began the season as the staff ace.

Coming off of an injury-plagued 2012, things haven’t improved for 25-year-old Vance Worley since the Phillies shipped him to Minnesota in exchange for Ben Revere. As quickly as he ascended to Opening Day starter for his new club, he’s plummeted that much farther with the recent news of his demotion to Triple-A Rochester.

Following another rocky outing against the Braves on Wednesday, Worley’s record dropped to 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA through 10 starts this year. He’s surrendered the second-most hits (82) in the American League, behind only ex-teammate Joe Blanton (86) now with the Angels.

Other troubling numbers include a 1.99 WHIP and 4.62 K/9, both of which are way below Worley’s career averages. Via the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

"We're looking for performance here," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We got him in a trade. We need performance. You've seen what's happened here in a row with our starters. We needed him to step up, and it didn't work out."

"This has been kind of a struggle the whole way," Gardenhire said. "He's never really gotten on a roll here. He had a good start last time, pretty decent, but really his starts have gone like this pretty much every time."

"He needs to go down and get going," Gardenhire said. "I think we're just searching for the guy that we got in the trade. He's got the stuff. Now he's got to put it out on the field."

Revere meanwhile has been swinging the bat a bit better of late, raising his average to .260 and on-base percentage to .302. We’re not going to describe the Phillies as the winners of this trade just yet, but at least the centerfielder is beginning to produce nearer to expectations.

That said, we hope the Vanimal hasn't hit a wall and is able to turn things around, eventually working his way back to the Majors. After watching him pitch over a full season in 2011 when he finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting, it’s hard not to think maybe the bone chip that was affecting him and subsequent surgery that eventually ended his season early in ’12 isn’t still a factor here.

>> Minnesota Twins demote Opening Day starter Vance Worley [TwinCities.com]

Villanova stays put at No. 2 for the 3rd straight week

Villanova stays put at No. 2 for the 3rd straight week

Villanova stayed put in the national rankings this week.

The defending champion Wildcats remained the No. 2 overall team in the Associated Press top-25 poll behind 24-0 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs received 59 first-place votes while Villanova received five votes. Kansas, which came in at No. 3, received the other No. 1 vote.

Villanova stayed where they were in the rankings after holding their own with two comfortable road wins, in large part thanks to sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson. Brunson was the big man on campus this week, beginning with a team-high 18 points in a 75-62 win at DePaul on Monday. He followed it up with his first career double-double as he put together a 22-point, 10-assist effort in a blowout win over Seton Hall in Newark on Saturday.

The win over the Pirates meant the Wildcats clinched a share of the Big East regular-season title for the fourth straight year. One win in their last three regular season games or one loss each by Butler and Creighton would hand Villanova sole possession of the Big East crown. 

Therefore, it's only fitting that the Wildcats' next two games are against none other than Butler and Creighton. Butler handed Villanova its first loss of the season back on Jan. 4 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but the No. 22 Bulldogs now have to travel to Philadelphia for the rematch on Wednesday. The No. 23 Blue Jays then head to the Pavillion for a Saturday afternoon duel. The Wildcats beat Creighton, 80-70, on New Year's Eve in Omaha, Neb. 

At this point last season, Villanova had four losses (two in conference) and had just a one-game lead in the conference. This year, they have much more room for comfort, albeit with a tough week with two ranked opponents ahead of them. 

Behind the top three, which remained static this week, the Pac 12 had three teams ranked 4-6 – Arizona, UCLA and Oregon – in the poll this week. The ACC had six teams in the top 25, including No. 7 Louisville, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 10 Duke. Baylor, which lost to Kansas on Saturday, fell from No. 4 to No. 9. 

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

If the reports are accurate, Bryan Colangelo probably made the right decision not trading Jahlil Okafor last week.

After the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins early Monday morning in a shocking, post-All-Star Game blockbuster, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported several interesting pieces of information regarding the Sixers.

"The Pelicans were very close on a deal for Jahlil Okafor about 10 days ago, offering a similar package except it didn't include [Buddy] Hield," Shelburne wrote

A few hours earlier, she reported on ESPN that the deal for Okafor would have netted the Sixers Tyreke Evans, a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick from New Orleans.

The protection the Pelicans sought was heavy — they wanted top-20 protection, according to Shelburne.

That just isn't a meaningful enough return, even for a player without a role in Philly.

Why? 

• Evans is a free agent after the season who has had three knee surgeries in the last two years and can't shoot threes. 

• A second-round pick is just a sweetener, so moving on from that ...

• A top-20 protected first-round pick isn't that enticing at all. Of the players selected between 20 and 30 in the last draft, only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Toronto's Pascal Siakam and San Antonio's Dejounte Murray even have roles. 

In the previous year's draft, the best picks between 20-30 were Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. 

The year before, Rodney Hood and Clint Capela panned out for their teams, but the eight others selected in that range have done little.

This sort of trade might have worked for the Sixers if they weren't already accumulating some roster depth. They don't need to go search for another late-first-round pick they can hopefully turn into the eighth or ninth guy in a rotation. With players developing like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes and Nik Stauskas, the Sixers are already building a decent second unit for the future.

There are a lot of people in this city ready to give Okafor away, but doing so just makes no sense for the Sixers. All it would solve is the center logjam and awkwardness, but the value in that New Orleans proposal just wasn't there for the Sixers. 

At this point, it's looking extremely unlikely Okafor is traded before the Feb. 23 deadline. The Blazers were interested but acquired Jusuf Nurkic from Denver instead. The Pelicans were interested but landed Cousins. 

The only team left we've heard connected to Okafor is the Bulls, who don't have much of intrigue to send the Sixers' way.

But still, hanging on to Okafor and trading him after the season, or on draft night, could yield the Sixers a better return than New Orleans was offering. Forget about Evans and forget about the second-round pick — that offer was basically a pick in the 20-30 range for Okafor. 

Not enough. 

The Sixers held out in hopes of New Orleans' making the pick top-10 protected or lottery-protected instead, but Pels GM Dell Demps knew the Sixers didn't have much leverage and thought to himself, "If I'm trading away a potentially valuable draft pick, I want a better player in return."

And so he got Cousins. That's how we ended up where we are today.

The Sixers' future is brighter because their pick swap with the Kings now holds more value, so last night was a win for them even though Okafor remains on the roster.