Inexplicable bout of arm numbness derails Ventura's start vs. Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Busch Stadium's radar gun presented the first warning sign Friday night. A meeting on the mound cautioned the second time. The symptom was numbness for Yordano Ventura, the cause unknown and undetermined, mysterious and puzzling.
During St. Louis' 4-0 win over Kansas City on Friday, Ventura left after just three innings due, officially, to right hand weakness. The exit was deemed precautionary.
Ventura did not undergo an MRI on Friday night, though the test could happen as soon as Saturday. He reported that he couldn't feel his thumb, ring finger and pinky when he faced Mark Reynolds in the third inning.
"He didn't feel right," infielder Christian Colon translated for Ventura. "Just really numb. Couldn't really feel the grip of the ball. Couldn't really hold it tight."
After the game, both manager Ned Yost and Ventura were confused by the situation, unsure of what the root of the problem was. Ventura said his hand felt a little better after the game, but not enough to assure his next start.
Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland noticed Ventura's decrease in velocity Friday night. Ventura's fastball maxed out at 97 mph and was as slow as 91 mph in the final at-bat. For a fastball that flirts with triple digits, something was not right to Yost.
"I thought he was trying to command the ball and stay within himself and get ahead in the count," Yost said. "And then he came in in the third inning and he said he was having trouble with his grip."
The speed was the first clue. Catcher Salvador Perez's concern was next. During an at-bat against Yadier Molina in the third inning, Perez visited the mound to figure out what was wrong.
"It just felt really weird, so they noticed that," Colon said. "They went out there, they asked him what was going on. Just couldn't have that feel for the pitch to grip the ball, so they just decided to take him out."
Ventura said he had never felt this before, despite battling a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome while in the minor leagues in 2012.
Ventura threw just 52 pitches and allowed two runs in his brief appearance. It was the third time this season Ventura left a game because of injury. He exited his Opening Day start with a thumb cramp and left his next start with a leg cramp. Ventura has also been ejected twice.
The three-inning outing matched Ventura's shortest of the season, which came Sunday against the Rangers when he gave up four runs on six hits. The 52 pitches were a season low. Yost said the injury-shortened starts and ejection-ended outings have prevented Ventura from finding a rhythm.
"He has yet to get on a consistent type roll," Yost said. "It's been a good start, good start, not a good start, not a good start, decent start, not a good start, good start. It's a roll that we're looking for him to get on. We have all the confidence in the world that he will."
Kansas City is already without left-hander Danny Duffy, who is rehabbing left biceps tendinitis with Triple A Omaha. He made his first rehab start Tuesday night and threw 49 pitches in four innings.
Yost mapped out a plan for Duffy's rehab schedule that would culminate June 24 with a 100-pitch performance. But Yost also said the club could activate Duffy at any time if the rotation suffered an injury.
Ventura, dubbed the team's ace at the start of the season, now has a 4.68 ERA and 1.262 WHIP. Prior to his two most recent starts, Ventura had completed seven innings in the previous four straight starts.
He suffered an elbow injury last May, but an MRI revealed no damage. Ventura has never been on the disabled list.
"Of course you have a level of concern because you don't know what it is yet," Yost said. "We'll wait until tomorrow and see what's going on."