Royals get what they wanted all along: Ventura officially in rotation
Five things we learned from the Royals’ 6-0 spring training win over Texas on Monday night.
Kansas City will be buzzing for days following Yordano Ventura’s terrific outing Monday night, shown on FOX Sports Kansas City’s first spring telecast from Arizona. Now, fans can remember the type of dynamic stuff that Ventura displayed last September.
And maybe now fans will understand why club officials started telling me two months ago that their preference would be that Ventura be in the rotation to start the season.
Ventura certainly cemented his stake on the final spot Monday night, though, in truth, the "competition" was mostly a myth. The only way Ventura wasn’t going to be in the rotation was if he absolutely bombed this spring.
He hasn’t. And manager Ned Yost said the job was Ventura’s Monday night.
Ventura was brilliant, showing off a fastball consistently in the upper 90s (mph) and an over-the-top curve that tear-dropped past numerous Rangers hitters.
Ventura also threw a first-pitch change-up to Prince Fielder that hit 90 mph. A change-up at 90. Fielder swung through it and then was caught on camera smiling in amazement toward the Rangers’ dugout.
Ventura was virtually flawless through six innings, striking out six and walking none. He overpowered the Rangers, who had trouble all night getting around on his heater. In fact, three of their four hits were opposite-field singles.
Ventura likely will slot in at the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind James Shields and Jason Vargas. And that means left-hander Danny Duffy likely will start the season in Class AAA Omaha.
CAUTION: MOOSE CROSSING
As we all know, Mike Moustakas blistered Cactus League pitching last spring, then flopped during the regular season.
And once again, Moustakas is tearing up pitching in Arizona this spring. Yes, we should proceed with caution regarding Moose.
But this is a different Moustakas, at least in approach. Many Royals fans got to see Monday night the new stance we have mentioned previously — Moose has opened his right side and is using a much more animated front-leg kick to improve his timing.
Fans also got to see the new discipline that hitting coach Pedro Grifol has been preaching to Moustakas all winter. Moose ripped a double in his first at-bat (off a left-hander) and then in his next at-bat, on a 2-2 pitch, spit on a slider that last year he certainly would have waved at helplessly. Eventually, Moose got another hit in that at-bat, a sharp single to right.
In his third trip to the plate, Moustakas worked the count full off left-hander Joe Saunders. That patience paid off with a walk (actually, Moose almost got hit by the ball-four pitch).
The Royals are most excited that Moose now is listening to instruction about hitting the ball the other way on pitches on the outer half of the plate. Moose did that in his final at-bat, ripping a liner into left-center off a right-handed pitcher.
CROSSING THEIR FINGERS
Yes, Kelvin Herrera has had a couple of rough outings this spring. But the Royals privately are not overly concerned yet.
Still, they are trying their best to restore his confidence that was so shaken in 2013.
Herrera got two quick outs Monday night, but came out after giving up a single in the seventh, a move that was likely done to avoid any more blow-up innings from him this spring.
The Royals are hoping he’ll throw more off-speed pitches early in counts for strikes this season, which would make his high-90s fastball even more effective.
NO LETTING UP
Spring training or not, Alex Gordon has only one gear, it seems.
How about Gordon tagging up from first base and advancing to second on a fly out to left field? As FSKC broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre noted, "You rarely see that in the regular season; you never see it in spring training."
We have known from the start of camp that six of the seven spots in the bullpen would go to Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Wade Davis, Tim Collins, Herrera and Louis Coleman. Luke Hochevar would have taken the seventh, but now with that spot open, it would seem Donnie Joseph has the inside track over Francisley Bueno.
Yes, Bueno is out of options, but the Royals really aren’t all that worried about losing him. They designated Bueno for assignment last summer and got the 33-year-old back.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.