Surprise, Surprise: Dwyer could contend for rotation spot next spring
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There was a time when left-hander Chris Dwyer was the pitching prospect the Royals kept raving about.
A fourth-round pick in 2009, Dwyer had a sneaky fastball in the low 90s and a hammer curveball that buckled minor league hitters.
Dwyer shot through the farm system, advancing all the way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas by his second year.
Then, Dwyer hit a wall. Actually, to be honest, he couldn't have hit a wall with a beach ball. He lost his command, and in 2011 he walked 78 hitters in just 141 innings. He also gave up 124 hits that year and his ERA bloated to 5.60.
"He just couldn't get his stuff over," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said.
The 2012 season wasn't any better. In nine games at Triple-A Omaha, he posted a 6.97 ERA. And at age 24, he was quickly fading as a potential prospect.
"With some guys, you just never know when they're going to find it," Picollo said. "You just keep hoping."
The Royals' patience with Dwyer may have just paid off. Dwyer bounced back this season, thanks to newfound command of the strike zone, especially with his fastball.
In 29 games at Omaha, he went 10-11 with a 3.55 ERA -- a very impressive ERA for a bomber's league such as the Pacific Coast League.
"It wasn't anything more significant than just having better control, better command," Dwyer said.
And that command never was more evident than Tuesday night, when Dwyer started for Omaha in the Triple-A championship game against Durham (N.C.) of the International League.
Dwyer took a perfect game into the seventh inning before allowing a clean single. He finished with eight strikeouts in seven innings and didn't walk a batter.
"That was pretty fun, pretty exciting," he said. "A great team win. It was just one of those nights where I really had my good stuff and I could command it."
Dwyer's first reward was, of course, the championship. Then he was told he was the game's most valuable player. Then he was told he was headed to Kansas City to join the Royals.
"It has been quite a ride in 24 hours," Dwyer, a bit bleary-eyed, said Wednesday.
And Dwyer should get an opportunity to make his major league debut over the next week.
"He's not here just to observe and watch baseball games," general manager Dayton Moore said. "He'll be utilized."
Just as important, Dwyer has vaulted himself back into the conversation of being a candidate for the rotation at spring training in Surprise, Ariz., in 2014.
"I don't see why not," Picollo said. "He has really come a long way.
"The reason we drafted him is we were very impressed with his curveball. He's always had a great curve and still does. But when he struggled, it was because he couldn't get his fastball over and hitters just kind of ignored that pitch and sat on his other pitches.
"Now that he can command his fastball, his other pitches, particularly that curveball, really become effective weapons."
Dwyer just wants the opportunity to contribute, this season and next.
"We'll see. I hope so," he said. "It's up to them. All I can do is work hard."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.