Wellemeyer has shot at KC's rotation

Wellemeyer has chance to start

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Maybe Todd Wellemeyer's time has finally come. Or so the Royals right-hander hopes after years of waiting his turn in a rotation, any rotation.

Since going 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 12 starts at Triple-A Iowa in 2005, Wellemeyer has come close to getting a start in a Major League game but always found himself back in the bullpen.

This time the 28-year-old Kentuckian has a legitimate shot at opening the season in the Kansas City rotation. Especially if he continues to pitch the way he did Thursday during Kansas City's 11-3 victory over Seattle.

Wellemeyer pitched three scoreless innings, allowing just one baserunner, struck out one and perhaps most importantly of all -- did not walk anyone -- to earn the victory.

"Wellemeyer was very good, [he was] down in the zone all day [and] was efficient with his pitch count," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.

Wellemeyer is competing with Zack Greinke, Jorge De La Rosa, Brian Bannister and Rule 5 Draft pick Joakim Soria for one of two spots in the rotation.

"He did not harm himself at all," Bell said.

Wellemeyer's fastball registered a high of 95 mph on the scoreboard indicator, and other than a base hit by Willie Bloomquist, dominated the Mariners batters. Wellemeyer stayed ahead in the count and fell behind only two of the 10 batters he faced.

"I left the ball up on 2-1 [on the Bloomquist single]," Wellemeyer said. "But this was as good as I've felt all spring. I'm really working on this two-seamer I've got now, and I'm getting some good swings at it. Well, good swings from my perspective."

Wellemeyer said he is ahead of the curve in his preparation now, compared to where he was last year. In 2006, Wellemeyer began the season with Florida, going 0-2 with a 5.48 ERA in 18 games with the Marlins before the Royals picked him up. He was 1-2 with a save and a 3.63 ERA for Kansas City.

"I'm definitely way beyond where I was last year at this time and I feel really good about that," Wellemeyer said. "Last year I was at 88-90 [miles per hour velocity-wise], but I've worked my [tail] off to get ready for this."

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Against the Mariners, Wellemeyer showed some of the pitches he will need if he is going to succeed in cracking the Kansas City rotation.

"I threw one slider, one curveball, two changeups, 98 percent two-seamers, the rest four-seam fastballs," he said.

Wellemeyer has never started a Major League game in a four-year career covering 103 games.

"I had fun starting in the Minors, I had pretty good success doing that," Wellemeyer said. "[The Cubs] never gave me a shot. I know these guys wanted to do it in the middle of the year last year but we got a couple of other starters like De La Rosa and they ended up keeping me in the 'pen."

Royals general manager Dayton Moore came to Wellemeyer at the end of last season and told the pitcher of the plans to put him into the rotation candidates pool this spring.

"I'm definitely going to try to get it," Wellemeyer said. "This team is wide open. But as long as I'm in the game and contributing, that's really all I'm looking for."

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.