‘Ace’ Ventura to the rescue: First major league start Tuesday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As if Royals fans needed any more excitement this week: Now they’ll get a chance to see their top pitching prospect, Yordano Ventura, make his major league debut Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium against the Indians.
Of course, the news comes with a bit of concern as well. Ventura is taking the place of left-hander Danny Duffy, who apparently has experienced tightness in his left arm over the past week. Duffy had an MRI on Monday and though results didn’t show any structural damage, there was evidence of a flexor muscle strain.
“Pitchers can pitch with that (strain),” manager Ned Yost said. “But there’s no reason to push it for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery.”
In all likelihood, Duffy will be shut down for the season, though neither Duffy nor Yost is ready to make that assumption.
“Not yet,” Yost said. “But there aren’t many games left.”
Ventura arrives on the scene with as much anticipation and fanfare, if not more, than when Duffy made his big league debut in 2011.
Ventura, a right-hander, can top 100 mph on the radar gun.
 
Duffy got a first-hand look at Ventura this season at Triple-A Omaha.
“He throws gas,” Duffy said. “He’s fun to watch. Electric stuff. He’s a lot like me — if he reins in his stuff, he’ll be really good.”
Ventura, 22, has struck out 155 hitters in 142 innings this season, but he also has walked 54. Ventura already has thrown 134 2/3 innings this season, the most of his minor league career. But Yost said Ventura won’t be under any unusual pitch-count thresholds.
“He’s a full go,” Yost said. “He’s been pitching and he’s fine to go. He’s had some command issues — like Duffy — but we will monitor that.”
Ventura has actually already made his Kauffman Stadium debut. He pitched one scoreless inning in the 2012 Futures Game as part of the All-Star week here.
“That helped to pitch already here in this stadium,” Ventura said through interpreter Bruce Chen. “It’s a great stadium.”
Ventura, who recently helped Omaha win the Pacific Coast League title, found out Sunday he was getting the call to the big leagues.
“I’m very excited and I’m going to do everything I can to do a good job tomorrow,” he said.
As if he needs any more motivation, Ventura knows he is pitching for a team in the playoff chase.
“It’s the highest level of baseball, so I know I have to be at my best,” he said.
For Duffy, Monday’s development was a minor setback to a season that otherwise provided proof he has recovered from Tommy John surgery and can pitch with as much velocity as he has in the past. In five starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA.
“I’d been feeling like Superman after every start but this time, after Saturday’s bullpen session, I felt a little tired in there,” he said. “But I think that’s normal after the surgery I had. I’m just happy there’s no structural damage.
“We need to play it smart and we have to think about next year.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.