Royals downplay role of instigator in incidents

Royals downplay role of instigator in incidents

CHICAGO -- With three bench-clearing incidents so far this month -- including Thursday night's fracas with the White Sox -- the Royals are gaining a reputation around Major League Baseball as a feisty bunch looking for trouble.

But the viewpoint inside the Royals' clubhouse is quite different. They're not looking for trouble, they say. Trouble is finding them -- probably because the opponents are struggling to find other ways to beat them.

Benches clear on the South Side

"You know, we haven't started any of this stuff," manager Ned Yost said before Friday night's game. "The thing about it is, when you look back and look at what's happening, I don't know if teams are trying to get in our heads a little more. With these guys, it's not gonna happen."

Following last season's surprising run to the World Series, the Royals have gone from hunters to the hunted. Yost believes his players have to adjust to the fact that teams are going to treat them differently this season.

"The thing they've got to understand is they're a really good team and teams are gonna try and do that now," he said. "They understand how tough [the Royals] are to beat and they're gonna try and use every measure that they can to try to beat us, both physically and mentally.

"[The players] have got to be able to control their emotions through that mental side of it. Just take care of business on the baseball field. Somebody gets hit intentionally, they back each other. That's a very tight group in there. They'll stay together and they'll protect each other, but we just have to make sure we're playing our game on the field. That's the most important thing."

That's especially true of starter Yordano Ventura, who has been a key figure in all three incidents, including Thursday when he yelled an obscenity at the White Sox's Adam Eaton after fielding a comebacker. Ventura's teammates, though, continue to back him.

"He's a pretty emotional guy," said starter Edinson Volquez, who has served as a mentor to Ventura. "I can help him here, inside, but when he gets to the mound, I can't stand behind him. I talk to him during the game, between innings, and try to calm down. Something happen like [Thursday] night, I can't control that.

"I keep on talking to him about what happened [Thursday] night, at home, Anaheim, now he understands. He's growing up, but you have to understand he is a young guy, emotional guy. He promised he will try to be calmer."

Emilio Bonifacio of the White Sox has known Ventura for a couple of years and tried to serve as a peacemaker during the fight.

"I think he's going to start doing better," Bonifacio said. "It's kind of like too much for him now. He's a young kid. He has a lot to learn, like everybody.

"I was just kind of like, 'Calm down. You can't do that stupid [stuff] or you could get hurt. Somebody push you on the floor and you can blow out your elbow. You are putting your team in a bad situation.'"

Yost on win, benches clearing

Yost has talked with Ventura a few times about controlling his emotions better, but he also believes the Royals have a target because they are American League champions.

"I'm sure," Yost said, "and the fact that it's a very athletic team, a team that plays with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a team that has a phenomenal bullpen, a team that's off to a hot start. That all has to play into it."

The media contingent inside the Royals' clubhouse pregame was triple what it was on Thursday, and 90 percent of the questions were about Thursday's incident. Yost was asked if he was frustrated the focus was on that instead of the team's 12-4 start.

"A little bit, but I can see," the manager said. "It's exciting baseball. You've got a lot of people talking about it, but it doesn't take away from the fact that our viewership back home is breaking records every single night.

"We're in the conversation every night. It just seems to be a different conversation every night."

John Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.