PHOENIX -- Mike Maroth's left shoulder feels better, but he won't hesitate to tell you he wished it had been feeling fine throughout Spring Training.
But his left shoulder hasn't felt fine all spring, much to Maroth's frustration.
For the 30-year-old Maroth had put in a grinding, taxing offseason in hopes of making a strong run at a starting spot in a Royals rotation built around youth. Yet before he could showcase what he had to offer, he had to pull back and rest his tender shoulder.
Are his chances still good of making the rotation for Opening Day?
"No, not right now," Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said Sunday. "He's too far behind."
Ask Maroth, though, and he'll say he can catch up between now and the end of March.
"Yes," he said, "I think I could, but that's just me. Obviously, that's my goal. I feel like there's still a little bit more time."
Maroth admitted that if not for the shoulder tenderness, he'd be farther along. The tenderness kept him from throwing, and if he couldn't throw, he couldn't compete -- not on a roster with plenty of young, healthy pitchers eager to show what they could do.
The downtime didn't allow Maroth to work on his mechanics, which are central to any success he has. He's not a big, power pitcher; he has to repeat his delivery, pitch after pitch, to command the strike zone.
If he can't command the strike zone, he'll have a hard time getting hitters out. But if Maroth can reclaim the form he had with the Tigers a couple of seasons ago, he could fit nicely into the Royals rotation as seamlessly as anybody else.
He just needs to get his left arm stretched out, and more work will be the key to his doing that.
Or so he believes.
"There's no question about that," said Maroth, whose left shoulder is feeling fine now. "With two weeks left, I think I can get it stretched out pretty good. You know, two weeks -- three or four outings -- for sure. I think I can get it going."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.