In the thick of the playoff race, the Kansas City Royals are hoping to get a boost from one of their top pitching prospects.
Yordano Ventura is set to make his major league debut Tuesday night as the Royals continue a crucial three-game home set against the Cleveland Indians.
The highly touted 22-year-old right-hander will replace original scheduled starter Danny Duffy, who is dealing with inflammation in his surgically repaired left elbow. Ventura’s repertoire includes an impressive curveball and a fastball that touches triple digits.
“This is the highest level of baseball,” he said through teammate Bruce Chen, “so every time I go out there to pitch I’m going to give everything I can in my power, so I can do a good job.”
Ventura began the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas before moving to Triple-A Omaha, where he went 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 77 innings.
“We’re all excited to see Ventura pitch,” manager Ned Yost said. “I’ve had my eye on this guy — like we’ve all had — for two or three years, watching him come up in the system.”
Ventura will try to deliver for a Royals team that has won 15 of 22 following Monday’s 7-1 victory. Salvador Perez had three of the team’s 14 hits as Kansas City (79-71) moved 2 1/2 games behind Texas for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
“Every game is important,” winning pitcher James Shields said. “This is what we live for, this is what we play for, September baseball, and hopefully we have a chance to go to the playoffs.”
The Indians (81-69), who had won four in a row against the White Sox by a 32-6 margin, remain one-half game behind the Rangers, who also lost Monday.
“We couldn’t get that big hit,” said designated hitter Jason Giambi, whose team dropped six games behind AL Central-leading Detroit with 12 to play. “We hit a few balls, but we couldn’t drive in that big run.”
The Indians will try to avoid a fourth straight loss in Kansas City behind Corey Kluber (9-5, 3.55), who has won both his starts after missing a month with a sprained finger. The right-hander gave up two runs in five innings Thursday in a 14-3 road win over the White Sox.
“I was a little sloppy to start out with,” he told MLB’s official website. “I think I was kind of inconsistent with my delivery early on and I wasn’t getting my arm in a good slot, pitch after pitch.”
Kluber struck out eight over 7 2/3 innings of three-hit ball in a 3-0 win over the Royals on July 12, improving to 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts in the series this year. Eric Hosmer is 0 for 10 in their matchups this season, and Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are both 1 for 9. Gordon’s hit, though, was a home run.
Perez, 2 for 5 with a double against Kluber, is hitting .367 with seven homers and 26 RBIs over a 27-game stretch.
Ventura, meanwhile, will need to be careful against Nick Swisher, who is batting .333 with five homers and 11 RBIs in his last 10 games. Swisher, though, is 9 for 51 (.176) with just one RBI in his past 15 games versus Kansas City.