Three years ago, Chris Dwyer was being billed as part of a pitching renaissance in Kansas City. Along with fellow southpaws Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery, he was going to comprise a formidable rotation of homegrown arms. The Royals’ had the top-ranked farm system in the game, and pitching was a big reason why. As KC fans know all too well, things haven’t exactly worked out as planned.
That doesn’t mean Dwyer is a lost cause. Health issues helped wreck his 2012 campaign — Dwyer lost weight and several mph off his fastball due to a thyroid condition — but he came back strong in 2013. The 25-year-old logged a 3.55 ERA in 28 starts at Omaha, and capped off his minor league season by pitching seven scoreless innings in the Triple-A championship game. He made his big-league debut in late September, tossing three scoreless innings over a pair of relief outings.
Dwyer still has command issues — he walked 4.1 batters per nine innings in Omaha — but the talent that once put him on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list is reemerging. His ranking may have plummeted, but his chances of contributing to the Royals pitching staff are very much alive.
Dwyer on his 2013 season: “Last year was a good year in Triple-A, including winning the [Pacific Coast League] and the championship at the very end. Then, of course, getting called up to Kansas City in September. It was definitely a big year. You work so hard, and your whole dream is to go to the major leagues.
“I debuted in Seattle, which was amazing. Like I just said, you work so hard for it, and when it finally comes through, it makes you work even that much harder. It makes you even more motivated and ready to start the next season.”
On why he had a good year: “I think it was just that things take time. You’ve got to develop. My fastball command improved a lot, as did my ability to throw any pitch in any count. Mainly it was throwing strike one with my fastball more consistently than in previous years.
“A lot of it was repetition. Just keep repeating, keep trying to get better, keep working on it in between your starts. Just keep at it, you know? And finally it clicked. Sometimes you never know why guys figure stuff out and come into their own. It just happens.
“I worked a lot with [Omaha pitching coach] Larry Carter, who I’ve been with for a while. He knows me very well and always points things out when I’m a little off. He’s always been a guy that has watched me. But I think it’s mostly repetition and getting a good feeling for my throwing mechanics, and working on my fastball command.”
On scouting reports saying he doesn’t consistently repeat his delivery, and sometimes throws across his body: “I don’t know. I don’t really read that stuff. I wouldn’t say I’m throwing across the body; I’m pretty straight on when I land. They can say what they want. It’s really not an issue.
“Maybe I do those things a tiny bit, but nothing crazy. That’s something… you’ve always got to work on things. No one’s going to be perfect in their mechanics. And just because you have perfect mechanics doesn’t mean the ball is going to go where you want every time. There are guys who don’t have good mechanics who have long careers and are very successful. They’re important, but they’re not everything. No one has ever been called up to the big leagues just because he has good mechanics. You’ve got to do the best with what you got.”
On his signature pitch: “My curveball is my best pitch, and it always will be my best pitch. It’s my out pitch and what I come at you with. I started throwing it when I was15 or 16, and it’s always felt natural. The more it rotates, the more it’s going to break. I’ve always had it, you know?
“It’s a 12-to-6. I throw it over the top, it spins straight over the top, and just comes down. It’s always the same grip. Maybe if it’s early in the count, I’ll try to just drop it in more, but if there are two strikes, I want to put someone away. But for the most part, it’s the same grip and the same pitch.”
On his fastball and his 2012 health issue: “I’ve always thrown a four-seam and have never really messed around with my fastball grip. Obviously, a four-seam fastball is the straightest and the hardest. I’ve never messed around with a two-seamer; I’ve always stuck with the four.
“I did lose some [velocity], yeah, but that’s in the past. Everything’s good now, I feel better than ever. Everything came back just like it was. You’re going to have ups and downs, especially in baseball where there is so much failure. Even in life there are so many ups and downs. It’s how you deal with them, how you adjust, and how you work around them. You just keep battling, no matter what.”
On his changeup: “My change-up has come a long way. It’s a pitch I didn’t really have much of when I signed, but over the last couple of years it’s become a very consistent pitch for me. I can throw it basically at any time in the count, no matter if I’m ahead or behind. It’s nice to be able to drop it in there. It’s a pitch I have a lot of confidence in now.”
On starting versus relieving and his big league debut: “I’m definitely a starter, but I’ll see what the Royals want me to do. I’ll do whatever I can to help them. But I believe I’m a starter. That’s what I want to be.
“I got called up and they put me in the pen, which was fine. I got called up right after the Triple-A championship game. We were in Seattle, down 4-0, and the phone rang. Our bullpen coach, Doug Henry, pointed at me and I started to get loose. I had so much adrenaline going through my body, because everything you work for is to be in the big leagues.
“The first batter I faced got a hit, and I walked the next guy. Then I struck two guys out and got a guy to pop up. The first kid I stuck out was actually my college shortstop, Brad Miller. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and we talked on the field before the game. I told him it would be funny if he was the first guy I faced. As it turned out, he was the first guy I struck out. That was definitely special. The whole experience was. I‘m definitely motivated to get back there.”
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