During the 2008 season, the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen was the subject of many of the team’s fans’ nightmares. Of the many relievers the Cardinals ran out to the Busch Stadium mound, one was 2004 draft pick Mark Worrell.
The 12th round draft pick had appeared in 208 career minor league games spanning 244 innings and posting a 3.02 ERA when he was called up on June 1. He would not make his debut until June 3 with a shutout inning against the Washington Nationals. He would make his next appearance two days later against the same Nationals team. This time out he worked two shutout innings while recording his first career strikeout.
It would not be his performance on the mound that most Cardinal fans will remember in that game. In his first major league at bat, the native Floridian crushed a Tim Redding pitch over the left field wall for a three run blast.
Worrell would make two more appearances before being sent back to Memphis. At Triple-A, he would continue his dominance of Pacific Coast League hitters. The Florida International product finished the season with 80 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. He posted a 2.15 ERA while holding the opposition to a .210 average.
Even with the Cardinals bullpen struggles, Worrell would not see the big leagues again even after the roster was expanded in September.
After the season, I first came in contact with Mark. Even in our first interaction, his disappointment was obvious. In this Birdhouse exclusive, Worrell pulls no punches in expressing his frustration with the organization that drafted him.
Dustin Mattison: How is your off-season going so far?
Mark Worrell: It’s going all right. I am just training and getting ready for next season.
DM: It was reported that you were going to be playing in Venezuela? Is that still in the works?
MW: I was going to go down and play winter ball but I don’t think I am going to this year.
DM: You had an interesting season. You dominated hitters at Triple-A and got your first taste of the big leagues. Tell me about June 3, 2008, the day you made your MLB debut.
MW: Like you said, I pretty much dominated all season. You saw the stats themselves, it is ridiculous the chances and opportunity they have given me over the years. Just look at every year how well I’ve done. For this team not to give me the opportunity or just 13 days in the big leagues, I felt like it was kind of a slap in the face.
DM: That clarified some things for me. Has the team given you any indication of its plans for you for the future?
MW: No, they haven’t given me any indication. To be quite honest with you, I was hoping they would get rid of me. I would like to be given a fair chance. They haven’t given me a fair chance at all. Every year, I’ve put up great numbers, out battled my competition, and up to this point I have nothing to show for it but 13 days in the big league. With almost any other team, I think I would have had a real shot.
DM: How frustrating was it to see the big league club suffering to hold on to victories?
MW: It made feel pretty bad actually. The Cardinals, that bullpen, struggled a lot this year. They were always looking for answers and stuff like that. I don’t know why they didn’t look at me with my numbers dominating down here. It was better than some of, numbers wise, better than some of their up-and-coming prospects. They chose to overlook me. I am going to go ahead and speak my mind from now on because I would rather be somewhere else. I think they should have given me a shot and I did all the stuff to get that shot. Obviously, they didn’t want to give it to me.
DM: How disappointing was it to not get called up in September?
MW: It was really disappointing. My last 13-to-14 appearances I didn’t give up a run, perfect. I guess perfect isn’t good enough for the Cardinals.
DM: Tell me about your big league debut. How exciting was it to step out on a big league diamond for the first time?
MW: It was great. Going into the game I was pretty nervous. After my warm-ups I was able to calm down. It really didn’t sink in until after the inning was over. It was really cool, something I looked forward to my whole life. I want to get a little more time up there but it didn’t work out that way. I am working hard and hoping for an opportunity with the Cardinals. I don’t see that happening, so hopefully, somewhere else.
DM: Two days later, you get your first big league at bat. Tell me your thoughts as you are walking from the on deck circle to the batter’s box.
MW: I just wanted to hit the ball hard somewhere to be honest with you. I crushed that ball, as you seen. I can hit a little bit; I hit in college. I would like to get more at bats in the future. If the Cardinals would have given more (time) in the big leagues as a middle reliever, I would have gotten more at bats. I don’t handle the bat like most pitchers.
DM: What kind of reaction did you receive from your teammates?
MW: Everybody was pretty excited with me. It was pretty cool.
It would be a week before Worrell would see action again on the mound. On June 12, Worrell would come on and strand two inherited runners by getting the third out the sixth at Cincinnati. In the seventh, he forced a Joey Votto groundout. The submariner would allow a double to David Ross and then a walk to Andy Phillips that would end his night. Both runners would later score and the runs were charged to him.
Returning home the next night to host Philadelphia, the eventual World Champion Phillies would torch Redbird pitching for 20 runs in the game. Worrell would make his fourth and final appearance in the big leagues. The 25 year old would get leadoff man Jimmy Rollins to groundout but Shane Victorino would follow with a single. Eric Bruntlett singled to set up runners on first and second for the eventual home run champ, Ryan Howard. The St. Louis native deposited a ball over the right field wall for a three-run blast. He struck out So Taguchi before getting Geoff Jenkins to pop out.
Out for the seventh, Worrell allowed a one out single before striking out the final two batters including Jimmy Rollins. After the game, the Florida native would be sent back to Memphis.
DM: What did La Russa say to you when you were told that you were being sent back down?
MW: After the game he told me, “I was sent back.” That was it, that was all I ever spoke to him.
DM: So La Russa didn't have much to say to you before that?
MW: No, I really never spoke to him that much.
DM: You apparently feel that you are not getting a shot with the Cardinals, so what are your goals for spring training?
MW: I am doing the same stuff I do every year. I am working out hard, trying to get myself ready, my arm ready. I am stretching myself out so I am ready for spring training. I can’t really control what those guys do with me. Up until now I have done everything they have asked of me on and off the field. I feel like I have done a great job but obviously the Cardinals don’t really respect me. So unless they are going to do a 100% change and give me a chance than I am ready to try somewhere else that will appreciate a guy that puts up good numbers and works hard on and off the field.
DM: You have an interesting delivery. How did your submarine delivery come about?
MW: I would drop down on occasions and as I grew older I realized how uncomfortable batters were when I did drop down. So I just stuck to it and guys aren’t squaring the ball against me. Look at the average against me. My average against left-handed batters opposed to right-handed batters is lower. I have done everything they have asked of me; I’ve worked hard on and off the field, like I said, and it is a little bit frustrating. Actually, it’s not a little but very frustrating.
DM: You were drafted out of high school but you chose to go the college route. How tough of a decision was that especially being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays and you being a Florida native?
MW: It was definitely a tough decision. I felt like at time I wanted to go to college and start my professional career later.
DM: You have a famous last name as far as Cardinal fans are concerned. How many times have you been asked if you are related to Todd Worrell?
MW: I used to get asked that a lot. Over the last year it has slowed down a little bit. For the record, I am not related to Todd Worrell.
DM: What do Cardinal fans need to know about you that they probably don’t already know?
MW: It is a ridiculous that an organization won’t give a guy like me a chance. I have absolutely dominated at almost every level and I have been at Triple-A for two years now. I have said all those other things in interviews but now I am just going to go ahead and speak the way I feel. I am tired of serving as a back up; I feel I deserve better than that. I know that I am just as good or better than anyone other reliever in the league. I would just like to get an opportunity somewhere and I really don’t see that with the Cardinals.
DM: Thank-you Mark for your time and good luck.
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