MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Royals need ace-like Ventura for another run

Righty notches 10 K's in strong bounce-back start after Baltimore scuffle

Royals need ace-like Ventura for another run

CHICAGO -- You know those reports about the Royals being so tired of Yordano Ventura's immaturity that they're going to trade him?

Forget 'em. That's not going to happen, at least for the rest of this season and probably a whole lot longer.

Some guys are worth a little more effort to keep them pointed in the right direction. The 25-year-old Ventura is one of those players.

You knew that if you saw him in his two starts in the 2014 World Series. Ventura has been maddening at times since then, for his teammates, his organization and its fans. He's a long way from being a finished product, but when he's on his game, he's about as much fun as car trouble for opposing hitters.

That was the guy who carried the Royals to a 3-1 victory over the White Sox on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.

"Today was a perfect example of what he's capable of achieving," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He went out and stayed within his delivery, stayed within himself, executing pitches with great life on them, great curveballs, great changeups, without overthrowing. He was actually pitching out there today."

Ventura was pitching for the first time since his start in Baltimore, when he drilled Manny Machado and met a charge to the mound with his fists, drawing a nine-game suspension and triggering reports that the Royals are running out of patience with him. Ventura had to be feeling pressue to deliver the goods, but denied it afterward.

"Not at all," Ventura said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "That's something that happened. It's a decision that they made, that they're going to make. You just have to continue to play baseball."

Ventura appealed his suspension and is being allowed to pitch until his case is heard, possibly June 21-22, when the Royals are in New York to play the Mets. Ventura has said he did nothing wrong, that a pitch simply got away from him, and Yost believes the baseball community has rushed to judgment against his guy.

"There were issues on both sides of it," Yost said. "For me, he was totally judged guilty without even a trial, without hearing any of the evidence. That wasn't right, but it is what it is, and he's got to go out and continue to prove himself on a daily basis. Today was a very, very good step."

Ventura used Sunday's start to demonstrate that the Royals' best hope for reaching the World Series a third consecutive season is getting him right for the long haul, not getting rid of him.

Ventura blew away White Sox hitters throughout a seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance. He threw easy heat (his fastball averaged 97.4 and topped out at 100.2 mph) while commanding his changeup and swing-and-miss curveball.

It came a day after Danny Duffy had shut down the White Sox, ending an eight-game losing streak for Kansas City. The Royals enter a long stretch of scheduled home games (12 in the next 14) in which they are positioned to cut into the Indians' lead in the American League Central, starting with a series against Cleveland on Monday.

Only occasionally has Ventura -- who is 5-4 with a 4.93 ERA -- looked like the cool customer who burst on the scene two Octobers ago, mowing down the Angels in the AL Division Series and making strong starts against the Giants in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series.

Ventura profiled then as the guy every franchise would want to have, a young dominator, which is why Royals GM Dayton Moore was thrilled to give him a five-year, $23-million contract that could cover as many as seven seasons including the club options.

Ventura has been wildly inconsistent since then and allowed his frustration to get the best of him at times, developing a reputation as a hothead with a series of beanball incidents. Some reports last week indicated he had lost support of his teammates and of management, but sources told MLB.com that the team isn't trying to get rid of him.

That rings true because of Ventura's talent, significance to the team and cost-controlled status. The Royals would be selling low if they moved him before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on Aug. 1, but there would be no shortage of teams wanting to see if he can mature enough to become great.

In Ventura's last 11 starts a year ago, he went 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA. He struck out 81 in 68 innings while holding hitters to a .218 batting average. That's how he pitched on Sunday.

What would it mean for the Royals if this is the start to him getting back to being consistently effective?

"It would be a big boost for us, for sure," Yost said.

Ventura said he was working to stay in rhythm. He was consciously getting the ball out of the glove quickly and launching his pitches.

Yost loved how Ventura did not overthrow against the White Sox, even after Jose Abreu blasted a long home run to center field in the sixth inning, cutting the Royals' lead to 2-1.

"There have been times this year that he's just rearing back and firing, and the results are never good because it always affects your command," Yost said. "Today, he did a great job of duplicating his mechanics, staying within himself and just executing pitches."

After Yost lifted Ventura, he gave him a homework assignment.

"I told him when I took him out of the game that tomorrow his duty was to come in and watch every pitch of that ballgame," Yost said. "Because every pitch he delivered for me was phenomenal."

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.