Having the opportunity to start regularly and establish consistency has made a real difference for me this season.

The results have been gratifying so far. More importantly, I feel like I'm contributing to a winning ballclub -- that's what makes it fun. Hopefully, we can keep that up all season long.

I pitched in the Minors for three and a half seasons and never once came out of the bullpen. I started every game, but I sort of got labeled as a bullpen guy when I got to the Majors with the Cubs in 2003. The Cubs were stacked with starting pitching, not only that season, but in 2004 and 2005, too. I wasn't going to crack that starting rotation, especially as a rookie.

But I only pitched sporadically when I was with Chicago and, later on, with Kansas City. People talked about my lack of consistency back then, but it's real hard to be consistent when you might pitch once every 10 games.

I did, however, get a lot of experience during that time in my career, which has helped me now as a pitcher.

Last year was the first time I started in the Majors. I had 11 starts, which gave me confidence that I could be an effective starter this season. It was a good stepping stone for this year because starting in the Majors requires a different approach.

I came into Spring Training this year with a mindset of carrying over that experience as a starter and building on it. I made a decision not to change anything from a year ago. The results so far demonstrate to me that I made a good decision, but there's a lot of season left and I need to continue to be consistent.

Todd Wellemeyer, a strong right-hander who is originally from Louisville, has been a steady influence in the Cardinals' starting rotation this season. He's won five of his first six decisions through 11 starts while posting an impressive 3.36 ERA and holding opponents to just a .221 average, averaging more than six innings per outing.