Over the course of two seasons, Chris Dwyer had gone from being considered a top-100 prospect among all minor leaguers to not even among the top 20 in the Kansas City Royals’ organization.
But improved health and improved command of his pitches have gotten the 25-year-old left-hander back on track, and he’ll represent the Omaha Storm Chasers on Wednesday night at the Class AAA all-star game.
“It’s an honor for sure,” Dwyer said. “It’s something you strive for. But you’ve got to continue to do it afterward. This is just the first half (of the season). It’s a long season.”
“I’m just going to hang out with some of the guys on the team and hopefully get an inning in,” Dwyer said. “You never know how it’s going to go with the number of pitchers they have, but if I do (pitch), I’ll be ready.”
Fans can tune in and see Dwyer, who has pitched much more like the player rated as the 83rd-best prospect in the minors by Baseball America magazine prior to the 2011 season than the one who entered this season ranked No. 21 among Royals farmhands by the same publication.
A fourth-round pick from Clemson in 2009 who signed for $1.45 million, Dwyer reached Class AA by the end of the 2010 season.
But he went 8-10 with a 5.60 ERA while spending all of 2011 with the Royals’ affiliate in Northwest Arkansas, and wasn’t doing much better last year — 5-8 with a 5.25 ERA — before being “challenged” by Royals officials with a promotion to Class AAA Omaha.
He went 3-4 with a 6.97 ERA in nine starts with the Storm Chasers.
However, there was one underlying factor to his struggles with Omaha. A thyroid condition caused him to lose 20 pounds and sapped the velocity from his fastball. Normally an 89 to 91 mph thrower, Dwyer was operating at 83 to 85 late in the season and he was shut down before his final scheduled start.
“Last year it was a lot to do with his health,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said. “Now that he’s healthy again, it doesn’t surprise me what he’s doing. Because I saw him at the end of last year, when he had lost his strength, and he battled through his last four or five starts with less than his best stuff.”
Dwyer doesn’t dwell on trying to pitch through last season. And he said he was confident he’d turn things around in 2013.
“Every offseason going into the year, you feel like you will have a good year,” Dwyer said. “You work hard in the offseason. You try to stay healthy, maintain as well as you can.”
Dwyer’s 6-8 record this season masks a 3.58 ERA that ranks fifth in the Pacific Coast League. He’s fifth in the league with 1052/3 innings pitched and is holding opponents to a .241 average, fourth-best in the PCL.
Also significant is his career-best ratio of 3.5 walks per nine innings, a full one walk per game fewer than last season, and nearly one per game under his career average of 4.3 per nine.
“I want to keep improving my fastball command,” Dwyer said. “Just keep working.”
As for the win-loss record, there’s not too much Dwyer can do about that. He’s pitched well enough to win in, arguably, at least seven other starts but wound up with a loss or a no-decision.
His career-best “quality start” total (at least six innings pitched, with three or fewer earned runs allowed) is at 11.
“You just keep taking the ball every fifth day,” Dwyer said. “You control what you can control. I want to take the mound and try to keep my team in the game as best as I can.”
» Former Nebraska infielder Cody Asche will represent Lehigh Valley and play for the International League all-stars.
» Kansas City transferred Omaha relievers Kelvin Herrera and Santiago Garrido to Class AA Northwest Arkansas and reinstated starting pitcher Yordano Ventura from Omaha’s temporary inactive list.
» Herrera, sent to the minor leagues to work on developing his breaking ball, will be able to continue pitching since the Texas League plays through the all-star break. Garrido filled in for one appearance for Omaha’s short-handed pitching staff last weekend. Ventura had been taken off the active roster so he’d be available to pitch Sunday in the Futures Game.