MIAMI — Manager Clint Hurdle did not subscribe to the notion that Vance Worley had made any changes that could explain his strong showing this season in Class AAA.
“He’s just found his way back,” Hurdle said Saturday.
Worley will make his Pirates debut today against the Miami Marlins, filling the vacancy created when Francisco Liriano went on the disabled list. Worley, 26, a right-hander who joined the Pirates near the end of spring training, put forth impressive numbers since joining the Indianapolis rotation in early May.
In seven starts, Worley struck out 43 batters and walked only four in 46 innings. He pitched eight innings in two of his past three starts. Hurdle credited Worley’s improved fastball command and the corresponding amplification in his changeup for the strikeout totals.
“The past three or four games he’s pitched in the minor leagues, each game has gotten more crisp,” Hurdle said.
Worley finished third in National League rookie of the year voting with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, but the Phillies traded him to the Minnesota Twins for Ben Revere after the 2012 season. Worley was the Twins’ opening-day starter in 2013, but posted a 7.21 ERA in 10 starts, falling victim in part to a .401 batting average on balls in play.
The Pirates sent cash to the Twins to acquire Worley March 25. Special assistant to the general manager Jim Benedict, one of the Pirates organization’s pitching gurus, went to work with Worley, who started the season in extended spring training.
“The reports we’ve gotten from our entire minor league development system from the time he was acquired, he’s been very professional in getting himself back in a position to become very competitive and aggressive off the mound,” Hurdle said.
Worley is not on the 40-man roster, but the Pirates have an open spot.
Cole could be near return
Gerrit Cole, who is scheduled to throw a full bullpen session today, could throw a simulated game Wednesday if all goes well, Hurdle said.
Cole is eligible Thursday to come off the DL, to which he was forced by shoulder fatigue.
“If everything stays the way it is, we could have him back a few days after that,” Hurdle said.
The training staff has continued to test Cole using, among other things, static-hold strength exercises, Hurdle said. They can compare his current strength to where he was at the beginning of the DL stint and from spring training baselines.
“It’s scientific to some degree, but it’s not like we’ve got something we can shoot at him like a radar gun and say OK, he’s back up to 90 percent,” Hurdle said.
Nine more draft picks, including second-rounder Mitch Keller and competitive balance round (B) selection Trey Supak officially signed with the Pirates, the team announced.
Keller, a right-hander from Xavier (Iowa) High School, and Supak, a right-hander from La Grange (Texas) High School, each signed for $1 million, according to MLB.com. That represents a combined $341,200 above their slot values.
Josh Harrison returned to the lineup after missing two consecutive games because he rolled his left ankle Wednesday.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.