A scary incident may have Omar Infante sidelined indefinitely, but giving the ball to Yordano Ventura could be just what the Kansas City Royals need.
A day after Infante was hit in the face with a pitch, the Royals send their top pitching prospect to the mound for his season debut Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kansas City (3-3) has won three of four following Monday’s 4-2 win over Tampa Bay (4-3) in the opener of this three-game set. However, the Royals may have suffered a major blow in the seventh inning when Infante was struck in the jaw by a pitch from reliever Heath Bell.
The second baseman walked off the field under his own power, but he was spitting blood as trainers held a towel to his face.
"They put a number of stitches in there to close the cut," manager Ned Yost said. "They are going to go scan it and see if his jaw is fractured.
"He was smoked. We’re worried about a concussion, too. It shakes you for sure because it’s a very ugly sound for somebody to be hit in the face."
Infante is 8 for 23 (.348) after signing a $30.25 million, four-year contract with Kansas City. He hit .318 last season for Detroit last season.
While the Royals await word on Infante’s health, the future is finally now for Ventura as he begins what’s expected to be his first full season in the majors.
The 22-year-old right-hander is considered one of the top prospects in baseball, possessing a fastball that can reportedly top 100 mph. He went 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in three starts last year.
Ventura, though, was impressive in spring training, compiling a 2.70 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings, only adding to the lofty expectations.
He fanned 155 batters in 134 2-3 innings over 26 games in the minors last year.
Ventura’s scheduled 2014 debut was pushed back due to a rainout Thursday, and manager Ned Yost felt it was important to explain his decision to push him back until Tuesday.
"Here’s the deal: When you’re rained out, your fifth starter gets bumped. In reality, Ventura’s our fifth starter," Yost told the team’s official website. "They’ll see him pitch quite a bit, a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to deviate from anything that we need to do."
Ventura is going to have to deal with a red-hot Evan Longoria, who is hitting .414 so far. The third baseman collected three hits, including a double, in the opener of this series and owns a .327 career average in 14 visits to Kauffman Stadium.
Ben Zobrist is hitting .348 in 16 games there after going 2 for 4 with a solo homer Monday.
Tampa Bay will turn to Chris Archer, who allowed two runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 7-2 win over Toronto on Thursday.
The outing also came a day after the right-hander inked a $25.5 million, six-year deal that includes club options for 2020 and ’21.
"Having it or not having a contract or money, it didn’t affect me because it’s never been a thought in my mind when I was in between the lines," Archer said.
Archer is 10-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 14 games when lasting six innings, and the Rays have won 13 of them. He fell just short of that threshold in his only meeting with the Royals on June 26, 2012, surrendering four runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss at Kauffman Stadium.