Elarton has rough return to action
Right-hander unable to navigate through Yankees lineup
KANSAS CITY -- Scott Elarton was confident entering Tuesday's game. In his first start off the disabled list, Elarton believed the outing was going to turn around his injury-plagued season.
Instead, another poor outing ensued. Elarton allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings and took the loss in the Royals' 9-4 defeat to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
"It didn't happen," he said. "It wasn't what I wanted to happen and it wasn't what I thought was going to happen."
It was Elarton's shortest start since July 8, 2001. The seven runs allowed tied a season high and bumped his season numbers to 2-4 with a 10.46 ERA.
The start also raised questions concerning three-fifths of the Royals' rotation. Odalis Perez, Jorge De La Rosa and the No. 5 spot -- currently Elarton -- have been ineffective in the last few weeks.
While Gil Meche (3.63 ERA) and Brian Bannister (3.68) have pitched like aces, the team has received just one quality start since July 1 from the other three rotation spots.
"We need to get more innings from them," manager Buddy Bell said.
Elarton is listed on the Royals' official game notes as the starter Sunday afternoon against the Rangers, but the organization will discuss Elarton's future in the coming days. Possible callups for a start include Triple-A hurlers Leo Nunez and Billy Buckner. Nunez tossed four innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox on July 17.
"Well, I don't know where I stand with [Elarton.] He gave up seven runs in less than two innings," Bell said. "The problem is Scotty is either out of the strike zone or right down the heart of the strike zone which is really a bad combination."
Elarton has been through this before. He underwent right shoulder surgery in 2002 and missed the entire season. In 2004, Elarton was released by the Rockies after he posted a 0-6 record and 9.80 ERA in eight starts. But he recovered and became an effective pitcher over the next year and a half, posting a 14-14 record and 4.58 ERA in 52 starts for the Indians.
Elarton said the current situation is similar to his stint with the Rockies.
"It's kind of the same timeline," he said. "I just struggled and struggled and everything one day just seemed to click. I really was hoping tonight was the night. It felt like it could be the night and it wasn't."
"I am not in any mood to quit," he added. "I have been through it before and it really only makes you stronger."
Elarton, who said he is pain-free, believes he can right his season. Last year, he underwent right shoulder surgery on Aug. 1. For most pitchers, it takes a year to re-establish themselves.
"It's probably still just a process of coming back from the surgery," he said. "The command is always the last thing to come and it is just not quite there, so there is nothing I can do except just keep pitching."
Elarton joined the team in mid-May after rehabbing from surgery and went 2-3 with a 9.17 ERA in eight starts. He was placed on the DL on June 22, a few days after he worked 2 2/3 innings against the Cardinals.
Tuesday wasn't much better. Elarton faced 14 batters and six of them reached on base hits, two by walk and another was hit.
"I think tonight he came out throwing a little harder than he normally does and he looked like he had a little more carry than he's had but the command wasn't there," Bell said.
Tuesday's outing marked the eighth straight time Elarton had permitted at least four earned runs and the third straight outing he worked fewer than three innings. He has not worked six innings in a Major League game since July 16, 2006.
He was in trouble from the start. Elarton walked leadoff hitter Johnny Damon on nine pitches. Derek Jeter followed with a single to right field and Bobby Abreu hit a sacrifice fly.
Then, Elarton hit Alex Rodriguez and walked Hideki Matsui. Jorge Posada, the next hitter, lined a soft single to center for two more runs. Robinson Cano followed with a two-run double off the left-center field fence.
"Really, anytime I went away from them, they hurt me," he said. "I worked a lot inside and felt like I had them set up to go back away and every time I tried to go away, they hurt me."
In the second inning, a single, double and a walk yielded a pitching change -- and another poor line for Elarton.
Elarton believes he is improving -- he just needs to produce.
"The velocity has come back and it is better than it was when it went on the DL," he said. "The ball is coming out of my hand better, but it's about results here and that's really the bottom line."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.