MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Pelfrey once was a promising prospect for the New York Mets, a groundball-inducing machine who chewed up innings and bats with a hard sinker that tumbled out of his 6-foot-7 frame.
He's 28 years old now, coming off of Tommy John surgery and was sitting in the free agent bargain bin, which is where the Minnesota Twins have been shopping for starting pitchers all offseason.
The Twins agreed to terms with the right-hander on a $4 million, one-year contract, adding him to the mix in a starting rotation filled with "pitch-to-contact" guys who rely more on their defense making plays behind them than they do striking hitters out with overpowering stuff.
Pelfrey went 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA in seven seasons with the Mets, including a four-year run in which he pitched at least 184 innings and topped 200 innings twice. But he has averaged just 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which means he fits right in with a Twins rotation built on light-throwing, location-oriented arms.
He missed almost all of last season after having the ligament replacement surgery and is now working on his comeback. His deal calls for $1.5 million in performance bonuses, including $100,000 for 150 innings, $150,000 for 160 innings, $250,000 each for 170, 180 and 190 innings and $500,000 for 200 innings, a person with knowledge of the agreement said on Tuesday. The person requested anonymity because the deal has not been announced.
Pelfrey will join Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Kevin Correia in the new-look rotation. Only Diamond was a holdover from last year's staff, which is probably a good thing.
Twins starters went 39-75 with a 5.40 ERA last year, a disastrous season that put their staff ahead of only Colorado in the majors. Twelve players took at least five starts last season, and the dearth of power arms was one of the organization's biggest weaknesses in their second straight last-place finish in the AL Central.
They added highly touted prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May in trades, but both will likely take at least another year of seasoning in the minors before they're ready to join the rotation. They also have their own prospect, Kyle Gibson, coming off of Tommy John surgery. He could join the rotation this season sometime but is expected to be on an innings limit similar to what Washington's Stephen Strasburg was on last season.
Pelfrey will have to pass a physical before the deal becomes official.
AP Sports Writer Ron Blum contributed to this report.