Omaha pitching coach Larry Carter has seen a familiar sight when Chris Dwyer is on the mound this year.
The old Chris Dwyer.
“This is as well as I’ve seen him pitch since he first came to Double A,” Carter said.
Scheduled to start Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game against Las Vegas at Werner Park, Dwyer is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA that ranked seventh in the PCL through Thursday. The 25-year-old left-hander was also fifth among PCL starters in holding opponents to a .206 average.
“I’m just continuing to build on things,” Dwyer said. “I’m feeling good. The ball’s feeling good coming out of my hand. I’m getting ahead in the count.”
Carter, the Storm Chasers’ first-year pitching coach, spent the previous 11 seasons in the same position with Kansas City’s Class AA affiliate.
That’s where he saw the old Dwyer.
Dwyer, picked in the fourth round of the 2009 draft from Clemson, signed for $1.45 million. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder sailed through the system to reach Class AA by the end of 2010, making four starts under Carter’s watch and going 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA.
Then the left-hander was one of a record nine Kansas City farmhands in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list before the 2011 season.
But the next two seasons didn’t go well — he was 8-10 with a 5.60 ERA in 2011, and then started 5-8 with a 5.25 ERA last year. At that point, the Royals challenged Dwyer with a promotion to Class AAA Omaha, where he was 3-4 with a 6.97 ERA.
But Dwyer’s fastball, typically in the low 90s, dipped to the mid-80s by his final start. He’d lost 20 pounds, and the organization had him skip his final start and the PCL playoffs.
Once considered the No. 83 prospect in all the minor leagues, Dwyer opened this season ranked No. 21 among Kansas City minor leaguers.
He was later diagnosed with a thyroid condition that has since been treated.
“I’m no rocket scientist,” Carter said. “But I think a lot of the trouble he had was because of the loss of velocity. It’s back this year where it was before.”
Dwyer doesn’t care to revisit the thyroid problem and how it affected him.
“I’m not even bringing that up,” he said. “It’s over with.”
Carter said Dwyer has worked off a fastball that has consistently been in the 90 to 95 mph range while averaging 91 to 92. Establishing his fastball has also allowed him to effectively use both his curveball and change-up.
Despite his struggles the past two seasons, Dwyer said, he kept faith in his ability.
“I just continued to work and get better,” he said. “I never lost confidence. It is what it is. You’ve just got to improve on it.”
Dwyer was on top of his game in a May 5 start against Memphis, allowing two hits in six shutout innings. But, for the second straight game, the bullpen couldn’t protect the lead he left it.
“That was the best I’ve seen him with all three of his pitches since two years ago,” Carter said.
Dwyer struggled with command of his curveball last Sunday in Colorado Springs — a frequent problem for pitchers in high altitude. After pitching four scoreless innings, he gave up four runs in the fifth inning and left after 513. Dwyer had given up two runs or less in each of his first six starts.
“In the midst of all he went through, he was always one of the hardest workers you’ll ever see,” Carter said. “Even when he wasn’t doing things like he wanted to get them done, he was still working hard, doing his sprints at 3 o’clock, doing his (bullpen) work, getting to the gym. He’s never wavered at how hard he was going to work to attain his goals.”
STORM TRACKING: Saturday is George Brett Bobble-arms Night at Werner Park, with selected fans receiving a bobble-arm figure of Brett from the 1983 Pine Tar game. ... Kansas City placed outfielder Jarrod Dyson (sprained right ankle) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled outfielder David Lough. Lough was batting .340 for the Storm Chasers. He had a 16-game hitting streak from April 19 to May 8.
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