Yordano Ventura posted an excellent 3.20 ERA in 183 innings during the 2014 regular season and became a household name during the Royals’ run to the World Series. That all earned him a five-year, $23 million contract extension this spring and he became the second-youngest Opening Day starter in Royals franchise history when he took the mound on April 6 against the White Sox. But the party has been put on hold.
Ventura was optioned to Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday afternoon, one day after allowing 10 hits and six earned runs in a rough four-inning outing against the Pirates. Ventura also struggled in his final start before the All-Star break, yielding three runs on four hits and three walks over five innings to the light-hitting Rays. He missed most of June with ulnar neuritis in his pitching hand -- an injury that might still be bothering the 23-year-old right-hander. All told, Ventura has an ugly 5.19 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 76 1/3 innings (14 starts) this season.
Jason Vargas was activated in a corresponding roster move when Ventura got sent down and made his first start since June 8 on Tuesday night versus the Pirates, but he departed the outing in the top of the second after aggravating his injured left elbow and will probably now head back to the disabled list. Maybe that means Ventura’s stay in the minors will be a short one. Or maybe the Royals will try out Brandon Finnegan for a bit. Finnegan, used only as a reliever so far at the major league level, is tentatively scheduled to start for Omaha on Wednesday.
Ventura’s velocity is down a bit -- from a 97 mph average fastball in 2014 to a 95.9 mph average fastball in 2015 -- but the Royals think his struggles are more mental than anything. “Get your confidence, get your swagger back,” pitching coach Dave Eiland told the Kansas City Star on Tuesday. “That killer instinct. Last year, he’d get runners on base and he’d rise to the occasion and be at his best. And he’s having trouble with that. It’s all about confidence and conviction and belief. He just needs to get that killer instinct back.”
Ventura will return to Kansas City at some point this summer and it’s not crazy to think he could rebound and provide significant fantasy value down the stretch, but is it worth the patience for owners in competitive redraft leagues? Ventura has a 3.3 career BB/9 and a 1.31 career WHIP. He allows a lot of baserunners, and when everything isn’t clicking -- mental, physical, whatever, the youngster is going to be in danger of coughing up some crooked-number innings. Ventura is not an ace. Not yet anyway.
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Nice Debut For Phillies’ Nola
It’s been a brutal season so far for the rebuilding Phillies, but top pitching prospect Aaron Nola offered a quick glance at some possible sunlight ahead Tuesday night in his major league debut against the Rays.
Nola yielded just five hits and one walk over six innings of one-run ball, throwing 59 of his 88 pitches for strikes and fanning six Tampa Bay hitters. The one run he allowed came on a third-inning solo shot by opposing pitcher Nate Karns. That’s all the offense the Rays would need in an eventual 1-0 win over Nola and the host Phillies.
Nola might have to get used to the lack of run support, but he looks like a fantasy gamble anyway for the stretch run. Prior to his callup Tuesday from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the 22-year-old right-hander was sporting a 2.57 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, and 137/28 K/BB through 164 2/3 minor league innings. Nola was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft out of Louisiana State University and got ranked a top-60 prospect this winter by MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus.
Liriano All Good After Neck Scare
Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano was scratched from his start Saturday against the Brewers just minutes before the scheduled first pitch due to tightness in his neck. But it sounds like he might have just slept on it wrong.
Liriano made it through a successful side session on Monday in Kansas City and is expected to take his next turn in the Bucs’ rotation this Thursday night against the Nationals. Vance Worley filled in for him Saturday at Miller Park, yielding five runs -- four earned -- over just four innings of work. He’ll return to his long relief role.
Liriano, 33, boasts a 2.98 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 125/39 K/BB ratio in 114 2/3 innings this summer for the Pirates, who hold the third-best record in the majors at 54-39. The three-year, $39 million free agent contract he signed this offseason is looking like a big bargain so far.
National League Quick Hits: Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer could be placed on the disabled list if his knee doesn’t improve in the next couple of days … And top outfield prospect Michael Conforto could be called up in a corresponding move … Kyle Schwarber hit a game-tying two-run blast in the ninth inning and a go-ahead, game-winning blast in the 13th inning Tuesday in the Cubs’ comeback win over the Reds … Justin Upton missed a second straight game Tuesday with tightness in his left oblique … Braves fill-in closer Jim Johnson worked a scoreless ninth inning against the Dodgers on Tuesday to earn his eighth save … Matt Garza (shoulder) kept the Indians scoreless over six innings Tuesday in his first start back from the disabled list … Maikel Franco (wrist) could remain out of the Phillies’ lineup until Friday … Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal remains day-to-day with a swollen jaw … Jacob deGrom earned his 10th win of the season on Tuesday night against the Nationals, allowing only two runs and striking out over six innings … Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (wrist) is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment by this weekend … Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless inning for his 28th save Tuesday against the White Sox … Brett Anderson will undergo an MRI on Wednesday after leaving his outing Tuesday with irritation in his left Achilles tendon … Brewers shortstop Jean Segura finished 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base in Tuesday’s win over the Indians … Stephen Strasburg (oblique) threw around 30 pitches off a bullpen mound Tuesday without issue … Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud (elbow) could be playing in rehab games by the end of the week … Chris Johnson went 3-for-4 with two RBI as the Braves edged the Dodgers on Tuesday … Cardinals setup man Jordan Walden (biceps) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday with Double-A Springfield … Gerardo Parra tripled twice Tuesday in the Brewers’ win over the Indians … Mat Latos fired seven scoreless innings Tuesday night against the Diamondbacks ... Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is day-to-day with a swollen wrist … Hector Sanchez cranked a grand slam Tuesday in the Giants’ defeat of the Padres.
American League Quick Hits: Angels center fielder Mike Trout was held out Tuesday night against the Twins with some minor swelling in his left heel … Miguel Sano (ankle) is aiming to return to the Twins’ starting lineup on Wednesday … Shin-Soo Choo hit for the cycle Tuesday in the Rangers’ blowout win over the Rockies … Yankees closer Andrew Miller needed only nine pitches to earn his 21st save of the year Tuesday versus the Orioles … Franklin Gutierrez smacked a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning Tuesday to lift the Mariners past the Tigers … Astros infielder Jed Lowrie (thumb) is set to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday with Double-A Corpus Christi … Rays closer Brad Boxberger earned his 24th save of the season Tuesday against the Phillies … Rangers left-hander Derek Holland threw live batting practice Tuesday for the first time since his April shoulder surgery … Greg Holland allowed a run on four hits but still managed to pick up his 21st save on Tuesday night against the Pirates … Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly will be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to start Wednesday in Houston … Carlos Rodon was victimized for seven runs over four innings in Tuesday's loss to the Cardinals … Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias was scratched from the lineup Tuesday with a mild illness … Byron Buxton (thumb) could resume full baseball activities by this weekend … A’s reliever Pat Venditte (shoulder) will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton on Thursday … Mariners closer Carson Smith got the final four outs of Tuesday's win over the Tigers for his eighth save … Sean Doolittle (shoulder) could resume throwing off a mound by the end of the month … White Sox third baseman Tyler Saladino homered in his second straight game Tuesday against the Cardinals … Jose Altuve went 2-for-3 with two walks, an RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base Tuesday as the Astros topped the Red Sox ... Rays manager Kevin Cash said Drew Smyly (shoulder) had a "really good" simulated game on Tuesday … Chris Iannetta tallied four RBI in the Angels’ rout of the Twins on Tuesday night in Anaheim … Blue Jays signed Joba Chamberlain to a minor league contract.