Devil Rays pitcher Doug Waechter knew he wasn't attacking hitters, and that made him vulnerable to attack.
Catcher Toby Hall said Waechter might have been rushing his delivery. And pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said he still hasn't found his timing.
The bottom line: Waechter, who has made four starts since a three-month stay on the disabled list with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand, is struggling.
And after the worst outing of his career during Wednesday's 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Royals at Tropicana Field, manager Lou Piniella said the right-hander's future in the rotation is up for evaluation.
"We're hoping he gets better," Piniella said. "But I saw a different pitcher here last September than this September. Maybe the finger has something to do with it or a lot to do with it; the rustiness or inactivity for a long period of time.
"Whatever it is, next spring it has to get better if he wants to pitch here, I'll tell you that."
"Any time you're struggling with anything, I believe the harder you work the more you pull through," Waechter said. "I've done it all my career and it's not going to stop now."
Waechter was credited with one inning and gave up three runs on three hits with zero strikeouts. He gave up a leadoff home run to David DeJesus, the 13th he has allowed at home this season in 28 innings.
But it wasn't until he walked the bases loaded to start the second that he was relieved. In four starts since returning to the rotation, Waechter is 1-1 with a 9.82 ERA, 12 walks and 19 hits in 14 innings.
"It wasn't good at all," Piniella said. "He was all over the place with the ball. You can't walk three hitters. He didn't even come close at times."
There were other culprits in Wednesday's loss, Tampa Bay's sixth in its past eight games.
Shortstop Julio Lugo's seventh error in that span short-circuited what should have been an inning-ending double play in the sixth. Instead, the Royals scored three (two on DeJesus' single) to take a 6-4 lead.
Lugo and Damian Rolls ended innings being tagged out in rundowns between second and third. The team was 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. And Jorge Sosa took his second loss of the series.
On the other hand, reliever John Halama pitched 4 strong innings with six strikeouts and one walk and allowed just one inherited runner to score in the second inning to keep the score manageable at 3-0.
Trever Miller pitched a perfect 2 innings with three strikeouts. Lugo had three hits and three runs, Matt Diaz hit his first major-league home run and Aubrey Huff raised his average to .296 with three singles.
But the story was Waechter. The St. Petersburg native knows he has to be sharp in his final two starts to begin re-establishing himself. He also talked about possibly playing winter ball.
"I'd like to get myself to where I was before, and right now I'm not throwing that way," he said. "If that's what it takes to get me back, I'll do it."
"Look, the kid's trying," said Piniella, who was ejected in the second for arguing balls and strikes with umpire Mike Winters. "It's just the results aren't what we've been looking for. Nobody likes to go out there and pitch the way he did. That wasn't very good at all."
Waechter, who likes to say he learns from every experience, agreed.
"It will be a good outing to forget," he said.