Kansas City Royals Seeing Yordano Ventura Become an Ace
By David Hill
At the beginning of the season, it was expected that Yordano Ventura would be the ace of the Kansas City Royals. While Dayton Moore signed Edinson Volquez, it was expected that he would slot in as a second or third starter, allowing Ventura to front the rotation as he began his ascension into stardom for the Royals.
Needless to say, that did not happen. Despite the poise and the confidence that he displayed during the postseason last year, Ventura did not have that same focus to begin the year. His emotions got the best of him, leading to some truly erratic outings as the year continued along. In fact, if it had not been for Jason Vargas‘ injury, and subsequent Tommy John surgery, Ventura would have found himself toiling in Omaha for a period of time this past summer.
However, we may be starting to see the Ventura that the Royals envisioned at the beginning of the season. After his rough start to August, Ventura has allowed only three runs in his last 25 innings of work, walking twelve while striking out 32 batters. That type of performance would certainly be worthy of that ace status.
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Now, without the pressure of having to be that staff ace, the Kansas City Royals are starting to see what Yordano Ventura could be. Even though he proved that he could pitch under pressure in the postseason, there is a difference between rising to the occasion during a playoff push where no one expected the team to go that far, and having the expectations of a franchise upon one’s shoulders. Ventura, for all of his talent and ability, just may not have been ready for that role.
It is certainly not a coincidence that his turnaround began once Johnny Cueto was brought in. Without the expectation that Ventura would have to lead the Royals rotation, he has been a much more relaxed pitcher. His presence on the mound has been better, and the confidence that had been missing over the past few months has returned.
Even though Ventura seemingly has all of the tools and the capability to handle being a staff ace, there is a certain mindset that is needed for the role. Pitchers like James Shields, even if he is not an ace per se, have the makeup necessary to head a rotation. Ventura, at least at this point in his career, just did not have that. Perhaps, with Cueto and Volquez there to mentor him over the next couple of months, Ventura will be ready to take that step in the future.
The Kansas City Royals are starting to see the type of pitcher they hoped that Yordano Ventura could be. Hopefully, he can continue that momentum on through this season and into the playoffs.