Gerrit Cole is set to return from the disabled list soon, which means someone will be heading out of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation.
If he keeps pitching like he did earlier this week, it won’t be Vance Worley.
With his starting spot hardly guaranteed, Worley looks to build on his complete-game gem Saturday night against an Arizona Diamondbacks team missing star slugger Paul Goldschmidt.
Worley (4-1, 2.54 ERA) stepped into Pittsburgh’s rotation when Francisco Liriano and Cole hit the DL, and he’s surpassed all reasonable expectations by posting a 2.27 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in seven starts.
Cole was supposed to make his final rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday but was scratched and will instead throw a bullpen session, possibly delaying a return that was expected to happen late next week.
Regardless, Worley seems to have little interest in losing his starting job. The right-hander went the distance in Monday’s 5-0 victory at San Francisco, allowing four hits and needing just 100 pitches.
Suddenly, his 7.21 ERA and 1-5 record in 10 starts with Minnesota in 2013 seem like distant memories.
"He had to fight back. He had to make some adjustments," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He’s been focused. He’s been prepared. He’s not doing anything he hasn’t done before. His confidence is playing. The command is what’s showing up."
Worley gave up three runs and four hits over seven innings, striking out a season-high six, in a 10-2 home loss to Arizona (48-62) on July 3.
Perhaps the most likely candidate to move to the bullpen upon Cole’s return is Edinson Volquez, who failed to complete six innings for a third straight start Friday and allowed four runs. The Pirates (58-51) trailed 4-1 with just three hits through seven innings, but scored three runs in the eighth and five in the ninth to win 9-4.
"It’s just what we do," said Josh Harrison, who doubled and tripled and is 11 for 27 with four homers in his last six games. "We know we’re not done ’til the last out."
There was more drama after the final out Friday. Goldschmidt, who didn’t start for just the second time this season, was hit in the left hand by an Ernesto Frieri fastball while pinch-hitting in the ninth.
Manager Kirk Gibson wasn’t happy, and Diamondbacks first base coach Dave McKay appeared to confront Pirates catcher Russell Martin after the game, leading to a brief altercation between the clubs.
Goldschmidt, who leads the NL in doubles and extra-base hits, was put on the disabled list Saturday with a fractured left hand.
"Guys have to try and get outs. What do you want them to do? Just throw it down the middle?" he said Friday night. "They pitch inside as a team. We do it too. We want our pitchers to be able to pitch inside."
Arizona will hand the ball to Chase Anderson (6-4, 3.34), who had the shortest start of his rookie season in a 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh on July 2. The right-hander was pulled after 3 2-3 innings, getting charged with three runs on eight hits and three walks.
Since then, Anderson has been excellent. He’s put up a 1.89 ERA in three starts and struck out 21 in 19 innings, holding Cincinnati to a run and three hits over seven in Arizona’s 2-1, 15-inning win Monday.
"I’ve been feeling pretty good out there," Anderson told MLB’s official website. "My fastball command’s been really good lately. Last couple starts, I’ve been able to throw that inside, outside, kind of establish that early in the game, which gets me deeper into games."