FORT MYERS, Fla. – Justin Morneau was on Vance Worley’s side this time.
That’s the way the right-hander likes it.
Morneau hit a three-run double for Minnesota and the newcomer Worley pitched two scoreless innings in his spring debut for the Twins in a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday.
Worley was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for outfielder Ben Revere. The right-hander gave up two hits and struck out one, far better than his previous start at Hammond Stadium while pitching for the Phillies last March. Worley gave up 11 runs off 11 hits in that exhibition game, including a two-run homer to Morneau.
“A lot worse than I did today,” Worley said, recalling that outing. “A lot worse. Let’s put that one behind us. I’ll take what I did today.”
With a new-look starting rotation for the Twins, Worley has the chance to rise to the top of it.
“I like the way he looks out there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He looks like a gunslinger out there. His windup, the way he stands out there. The ball was coming out of his hand well.”
Worley went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA in 23 starts for the Phillies last season with 107 strikeouts in 133 innings. As a rookie in 2011, he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 appearances, including 21 starts.
“To me, it’s just about right now,” Worley said of the opportunity to be the staff ace. “If I don’t do that well, it doesn’t matter where I’m at in the rotation. It’s a matter of going out there and making sure everything’s working right. If I do that, everything will take care of itself.”
Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner, will leave the Twins at the end of this week to join Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic.
“We’re trying to get him five innings a game,” Gardenhire said of preparing Morneau for the tournament. “We’re getting there. We’ll get him some more at bats. He’s feeling really good. He’s been through all the drills.”
Jose Tabata homered for the Pirates.
Kyle McPherson, in contention for the fifth spot in Pittsburgh’s rotation, needed just 12 pitches to finish his two innings. The right-hander gave up one hit.
“For Kyle’s first time out, our biggest interest was in the up and down twice,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Obviously, we’re going to monitor him and not give him too many innings. We’ve got plenty of time to get his pitch count where it needs to be.”
McPherson, a September call-up by the Pirates, said that experience helped prepare him for competing for a spot this spring training. McPherson had a 2.73 ERA in 10 appearances last season with the Pirates, including three starts.
“I was able to see how they went about their day and their routines. I got used to the atmosphere,” McPherson said. “It’s not like I was shell-shocked or anything like that, but like I said I was able to get my feet wet.”
Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez will start Tuesday against the Orioles. He will make two starts for the Pirates before leaving for the World Baseball Classic. … Gardenhire addressed rumors the team was pursuing free agent DH Jim Thome, who has 612 career home runs. The 42-year-old ranks seventh all-time in homers and played for the Twins in 2010 and 2011 until being traded away. “If something happens, that would be wonderful,” Gardenhire said. “I love the guy.”