WITH A LITTLE help from the fire department, Phillies righthander Vance Worley arrived to give back to the community Saturday night.
Worley and manager Charlie Manuel came to Citizens Bank Park on the back of a fire truck to participate in the Phillies' annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony and Food Drive. Worley was welcomed by hundreds of excited fans who braved the frigid weather to catch a glimpse of the rising star.
"Obviously, the fans here are great," said Worley, still sporting his signature mohawk. "They're always behind us, so the least I could do is come and give back a little."
As a rookie last season, Worley was called up to the majors after starting pitcher Joe Blanton was placed on the disabled list. He won his first start against the Mets in late-April and finished the season with an 11-3 record and a 3.01 ERA. He also finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
With his distinctive glasses and hairstyle, Worley became an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia.
"For me, it was just going out and competing and playing the game I know how to play," Worley said. "I don't know if it was the glasses or the hair or just being the new guy, but filling in is basically all I was trying to do. Everybody really liked it, and I'm glad they did."
Worley, 24, said he is doing everything in his power this offseason to build on last season's success. The Sacramento native is currently in the process of moving to Florida, where he has been training since the Phillies were eliminated from the postseason in October.
"I'm trying to get an early start on my spring training by working out and conditioning there," he said. "I'm making sure that I come into camp in shape for the season."
With Phillies starter Roy Oswalt most likely not returning to the team next season, Worley will be expected to claim the fourth spot in the Phillies' star-studded pitching rotation. Manuel said he's confident that Worley will continue to make an impact in his second year in the rotation.
"I think with what you saw last year, Vance proved that he's for real," Manuel said. "He's done a tremendous job for us, and he's only going to get better. I don't want to put any expectations on him. I just want him to go out and pitch like I know he can."
The Phillies added another big name to their pitching staff last month when the team opted to sign veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was a free agent, instead of re-signing last year's closer, Ryan Madson.
Worley expressed some disappoint that Madson would not be returning but said he's looking forward to having a pitcher of Papelbon's caliber at the back end of the bullpen.
"He's obviously very talented and one of the best closers in the league," said Worley, who was drafted in the third round out of Long Beach State by the Phillies in 2008. "It would have been nice to have Madson back because he's homegrown and really took me under his wing in the bullpen over the last couple years."
Worley's participation in Saturday's holiday food drive certainly made a lot of fans smile, but he knows the ultimate gift would be to bring back another World Series title to Philadelphia.
"Obviously, we have the talent out there," he said. "It's just up to us to do it."