MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Pelfrey, the newest Minnesota Twins pitcher, is coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He’s also switching to the American League for the first time after seven years in the National League.
Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan doesn’t think either of those will limit Pelfrey from being a key member of the team’s starting rotation in 2013. The Twins officially announced they signed Pelfrey on Thursday, inking the right-hander to a one-year, $4 million contract.
“He’s got the size. He’s got pitches. He’s got to have velocity,” Ryan said. “He’s in the prime of his career and we’re hoping a change of scenery will do him some good. We certainly think the ballpark is conducive to who he is.”
Pelfrey, 28, pitched in just three games last season with the Mets before having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in early May. Ryan said Pelfrey will participate in spring training and should be able to start the season in the starting rotation.
In his last full season in the majors in 2011, Pelfrey was 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA in 34 games. Perhaps his best season came in 2010, when he was 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and logged a career-high 204 innings. That year, he struck 113 batters and walked 68.
With the addition of Pelfrey, the Twins now appear to have four of their five spots solidified in the 2013 rotation. Pelfrey will join left-hander Scott Diamond and right-handers Vance Worley and Kevin Correia. Worley was acquired via trade with Philadelphia on Dec. 6, and Correia was signed as a free agent last week.
Pelfrey and Correia spent a combined 17 seasons in the National League and will both be pitching in the American League for the first times in their careers. Of course, they’ll have to adjust to the addition of the designated hitter, but Ryan doesn’t expect any issues with those two switching leagues.
“It’s more difficult to pitch in the American League with the DH,” Ryan said. “These guys are both veteran guys. I would guess and hope that they are veteran enough to realize that it’s different in this league. I’m not too concerned about that. Obviously it’s a transition, but it’s something they’ll have to adjust to.”
As for the fifth spot in the rotation, Ryan said the Twins will continue to look, but added “it could go either way,” meaning they might sign another starter or go with an in-house candidate. Prospect Kyle Gibson, who like Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery last year, is a candidate for that final rotation spot. Gibson returned at the end of last season to pitch several games in the minors. He also made several appearances recently in the Arizona Fall League, and the Twins were happy with the progress he’s made since his surgery.
There have been plenty of examples of pitchers who have come back stronger after having Tommy John surgery, a procedure that seems to be more commonplace today than ever in baseball. Minnesota is hoping that Pelfrey and Gibson fall under that category.
“It’s dependent on the guy, certainly, and their history,” Ryan said of the surgery. “The rate of return on guys that come off Tommy John is pretty good percentage-wise. It’s quite high.”