Now in his third consecutive season in the Texas League, Chris Dwyer swears it's not the Double-A bats he can't handle; it's his own inconsistency.
"It all starts with being able to throw strikes, no matter where you're pitching," he said. "That's what counts. You can't control where you're pitching, what stadium you're throwing in, none of that stuff. All it comes down to is throwing strikes, hitting your spots and doing that consistently."
The Royals' No. 7 prospect showed glimpses of what is possible when he is on target in Northwest Arkansas' 4-3 win over Springfield on Sunday.
Dwyer took a shutout into the eighth inning, but surrendered a walk to Vance Albitz and a single to Jose Garcia before exiting. Naturals reliever Ryan Dennick allowed the inherited runners to score, giving Dwyer a final line of two earned runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
The outing represents the best start for the 23-year-old southpaw since he threw 6 2/3 innings of a no-hitter on May 10. Heading into Sunday, he was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA over his last five starts. That run included a start in which surrendered a career-high seven walks while allowing four earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings. Following his latest gem, he is 4-6 with a 5.84 ERA, sixth-highest among Texas League starters.
With such a high disparity to his starts this year, Dwyer had one word to describe his first half of the 2012 season.
"Inconsistent," he said. "I haven't been as consistent as I would like at this point. That's something I have to work on. If I can command the fastball better, hopefully the rest will come with it."
Following two more free passes in his latest start, Dwyer ranks fourth in the eight-team circuit with 37 on the season. With his accuracy becoming his own worst enemy once again, he went into his bullpen sessions looking to make some physical changes.
"I'm just trying to keep my shoulders on target with the rubber more," he said. "We've also been trying to get my body back around with my arm. ... It's something I've been practicing, and it felt good tonight. Hopefully, I can keep it rolling here going forward."
The Massachusetts native certainly showed in flashes Sunday that he is able to have a more stabilized second half to the season. He allowed only two baserunners between the fourth and seventh innings and only two Cardinals reached second base the entire evening.
Those moments have been rather far and few between for the fourth-best pitching prospect in the Kansas City organization. However, he believes if he can string together more outings like Sunday's, he could finally find his way out of the Texas League for the first time since 2010.
"Obviously I want to move up when it's right," Dwyer said. "When the Royals will think it's right, I'm not sure. Where I end up to finish the year, I can't control that kind of thing. All I can control is trying to throw strikes and go from there."
Yem Prades and Eric Duncan homered and had two RBIs apiece to account for Northwest Arkansas' runs.
Cardinals' No. 3 prospect Oscar Taveras drove in two runs.