Omaha lefty Verdugo, healthy at last, yearns to get back to big leagues

05/31/2014 6:51 PM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

Class AAA Omaha left-hander Ryan Verdugo is well-aware of his only appearance in the major leagues.

Verdugo gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings in a 9-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium on July 17, 2012.

“It was awesome being up there, but it left a bad taste in my mouth with how I performed,” Verdugo said in a phone interview. “I’d like to get back to there and show I’m a lot more capable than that.”

But the road back to the majors has been strewn with potholes. Verdugo, who was acquired in the disastrous Melky Cabrera/Jonathan Sanchez trade, was the Royals’ pitcher of the year at Omaha (12-4, 3.75 ERA) in 2012.

In 2013, Verdugo had a 3.44 ERA in a nine-game stretch before he suffered a forearm strain. Verdugo had had Tommy John surgery in high school and initially feared the injury had befallen him again.

After returning from the injury, Verdugo bounced from the Rookie Arizona League to Omaha to Class AA Northwest Arkansas and then back to the Storm Chasers, where he pitched in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

Verdugo then went to Mexico for Winter League ball and was 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA — before suffering a hernia injury. But he returned to the Storm Chasers on May 21, and on Thursday gave up two runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings for his first win.

“It seems like luck hasn’t been on my side the last year and a half, but it’s all just part of the game,” Verdugo said. “Now I’m finally healthy and feeling better, and my arm feels really good, probably the best it’s felt in a year or two.”

Verdugo, who said his fastball is up to 91 mph, calls his change-up his best pitch. The Royals are having him work on a breaking ball as well, and that’s coming along.

“Each time I get out there, I’m feeling a little stronger, a little better,” Verdugo said. “Right now, I feel like I’ve done all my rehab and all that stuff to put myself in a position physically and mentally right now if I pitch well, hopefully I’ll get another shot.”

To reach Pete Grathoff, send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff

The Star’s Top 15 Prospect List

1. Kyle Zimmer, P, Class AA Northwest Arkansas

Officially has strained right latissiumus dorsi muscle

2. Raul Mondesi, SS, Class A-Adv. Wilmington

Returned this week after missing nearly two weeks because of back spasms

3. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Northwest Arkansas

Batting .400 (six for 15) in four-game hit streak

4. Sean Manaea, LHP, Wilmington

He has 53 strikeouts and 14 walks this season

5. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Wilmington

Batting .400 (10 for 25) in his last seven games

6. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Wilmington

Pitched into seventh inning in his last start

7. Orlando Calixte, 3B, Northwest Arkansas

One-third of his hits (seven of 21) have been for extra bases

8. Bubba Starling, OF, Wilmington

Hitting .290 over his last 18 games

9. Christian Binford, RHP, Wilmington

Tied for third in the Carolina League with 1.09 WHIP

10. Jason Adam, RHP, Northwest Arkansas

His 40 strikeouts are 13th-most in the Texas League

11. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Northwest Arkansas

His six-game hitting streak was snapped Friday

12. Sam Selman, LHP, Northwest Arkansas

Has 26 strikeouts in last 25 games

13. Christian Colon, SS, Class AAA Omaha

He’s hitting .297 in the month of May

14. Elier Hernandez, OF, Class A Lexington

Currently on disabled list

15. Sugar Ray Marimon, RHP, Omaha

Has a 2.17 ERA in home games this season

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