Surprise, Ariz. After trading away right-handed setup relievers Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez, the Kansas City Royals are hoping for some help out of the bullpen from Doug Waechter this year.
Waechter signed with the Royals as a free agent in December after a season with the Florida Marlins. He had been a starting pitcher until the Marlins tried him in a reliever role last season. He went 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 48 relief appearances.
“When Kansas City came after me I really wanted it to work out here because I heard so many good things about the organization,” said Waechter, who got a one-year contract for $640,000. “It just seems like a good organization to be in, up and coming, a lot of good young talent here.”
Royals manager Trey Hillman said he thinks Waechter can help the Royals’ bullpen.
“I’m really pleased to get a guy like Waechter, who really hasn’t spent an extensive amount of time in the bullpen role,” Hillman said. “But the reports and projections we have are outstanding for his chances to help us and be potentially a sixth, seventh or eighth inning guy.”
Waechter was a star quarterback at St. Petersburg Northeast High School in Florida when he was offered a football scholarship to South Florida. At the time, Waechter was a big fan of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Eventually, he decided that instead of playing football at South Florida, he would try out for the Devil Rays, who drafted him in the third round in 1999.
“That was nice blessing, being able to go basically right across the street and work out for the team and get drafted by them,” Waechter said.
Waechter made his big league debut in 2003 and was in the Tampa Bay rotation in 2004-05. But a shoulder injury stalled his career in 2006.
“I had really a bad year and my velocity was way down all year,” Waechter said. “I didn’t want to go in and get it checked out.
“Selfishly, that’s a mistake I learned from because I had a horrible year. When I did get it checked out, all they had to do was go in there and scope it. I had a torn labrum and a rotator cuff tear. The next year when I came back I felt 100 percent from Day One. I’ve felt great ever since.”
When the Marlins tried him in the bullpen, Waechter found he enjoyed the reliever role.
“I loved it. I really did,” Waechter said. “I felt like I was a good fit there.”