By the time 2013 rolled around in Twins Territory, fans knew the team would be bad. When 2012 did not produce a bounce-back from 2011’s collapse, it was clear that a rebuild was necessary. Nothing could have personified that strategy more than Vance Worley taking the hill for the home opener—also the season’s first contest—a decade ago.
Acquired—along with Trevor May, to accentuate the positive—from the Phillies in exchange for Ben Revere when the Twins decided to trade all their CF’s in one offseason, Worley arrived with some promise (11-3, 131.2 IP, 127 ERA+ in his 2011 rookie campaign). But having him toe the rubber against the Detroit Tigers in front of a 38,000+ Target Field crowd was an embarrassment that has now grown to cult proportions—and it showed right away.
My brother Zebulun Koenig and I were sitting in section 307 that afternoon, and the first things we noticed were the bitter cold—35 degrees at first pitch—and biting 17 mph wind swirling around the upper deck. Not helping matters: two first-inning runs courtesy of Miguel Cabrera & Prince Fielder, followed quickly by another in the third.
Though a 3-0 deficit isn’t insurmountable by any means, it certainly felt that way with Justin Verlander (5 IP, 7 K) on cruise control and the temperature dropping by the minute.
The Twins finally got the circulation going in the sixth inning when a rally against Drew Smyly plated Trevor Plouffe on a wild pitch.
The biggest opportunity to turn the tide came in the next frame when Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, & Justin Morneau all reached and Ryan Doumit drove in #7 to make it a one-run deficit. But both Plouffe and Chris Parmelee whiffed with the sacks full and the rally fizzled.
After that letdown, an 0-1 start was all but a foregone conclusion when Detroit extended the lead to 4-2 off Twins relievers Brian Duensing & Josh Roenicke. By the time Phil Coke slammed the door in the ninth, the chattering of teeth was louder than any rooting.
Somewhat ironically, Vance Worley didn’t actually pitch all that bad: 6 IP, 3 ER—a quality start! But his presence alone and drudgerous defeat were indicative of what was to come...
The Vanimal’s 2013 final line: 1-5, 48.2 IP, 7.21 ERA, 57 ERA+
There have certainly been worse Opening Day starts for Twins pitchers. Heck, Ricky Nolasco was in that role a year later. But in terms of the miserable day, Worley’s Twins trajectory, and just the general sense of gloom around the franchise, the Legend of Vance Worley lives on.