One foot closer to the plate.
That’s where Royals righthander Yordano Ventura needed to throw his 99-miles-per-hour fastball to Baltimore’s Manny Machado on Tuesday. That way, it doesn’t plunk the third baseman in the ribs and start a bench-clearing incident that leads to a nine-game suspension. And, maybe, Ventura is not being called a hothead. Or immature. Or defiant. Again.
Royals General Manager Dayton Moore is in a tricky situation since reports have leaked that he’s had discussions with teams about the flamethrower following his latest on-field incident. It suggests that Kansas City is tiring of trying to harness Ventura’s unbridled temper.
Yet the Royals might be better off holding on to the talented Ventura and hope that, this time, he learns that he doesn’t have to hit batters or yell at them to prove his point. The Royals need Ventura’s gifted arm to help their quest to repeat as World Series champions.
So tell him to shut up, stay off Twitter and keep pitching inside.
The 2015 season was rather tumultuous for Ventura. It included a staredown with the Angels’ Mike Trout, plunking Brett Lawrie the day after he slid hard into a teammate, and tweeting a threat to Toronto’s Jose Bautista.
Now add Tuesday’s incident, during which Machado, a fellow hothead, admired a long drive during his second at-bat that was actually caught. Machado then yelled at Ventura about being pitched inside. That set up the next at-bat, and we all know what happened then.
Ventura has ace stuff but has yet to grow into the ace mentality. He’s getting away from the one thing that makes him dominating — pitching inside. He’s 4-4 with a 5.32 ERA. His strikeout rate of six per nine innings is a low for his career. His walk rate of 4.8 is a career high. The man has lost his edge — the inside edge. The Royals tried to send Ventura down to the minors last season when he stopped throwing inside. It lasted a day because Jason Vargas got injured.
Pitching inside is hard to do. You miss too much inside, and you plunk the hitter. You miss the other way, and it’s out over the middle of the plate. It takes a mentality that not a lot of pitchers today embrace. There’s one team that immediately comes to mind.
In Ventura’s case, he doesn’t have to hit someone or jaw with someone when a 99-mph fastball just off the inside corner can do all the talking for him. It’s an adjustment he should be able to make. And it would stop players from saying he has a circuit board malfunctioning.
“He’s going to have to fight that reputation for a while,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I told him: ‘You cannot quit pitching inside.’ Because that’s what he did last year. He got to the point where he was like: ‘I don’t want any more.’ He quit pitching inside, and it got to the point where we had to send him down.’’
Righthander Danny Salazar threw eight innings of one-run ball June 3 to lower his ERA to a league-leading 2.24, but the young hurler came down with shoulder fatigue after the outing and didn’t make his next start Wednesday. All signs point to him starting Sunday, but he will be watched closely.
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The Royals lost their seventh straight game Wednesday at Baltimore and are searching for their missing offense. They scored just four runs over a six-game period entering Friday. During that run they struck out 25 percent of the time. The Royals — known for putting the ball in play — struck out 15.9 percent of the time all of last season.
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Outfielder Cameron Maybin recovered from a fractured left wrist during spring training and immediately energized the Tigers offense, as the Twins experienced last month when they visited Comerica Park. But the wrist is still sore and forced Maybin, batting .419 in 21 games going into Friday, to miss two games and take a cortisone shot last week. Detroit has to be worried.
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How fast and how hard did Mat Latos (above) fall? The righthander had a 0.74 ERA through four starts and looked to be one of the free-agent steals of the offseason. But he’s posted a 7.25 ERA since then and was designated for assignment Thursday to make room for the signing of former Twin Justin Morneau.
The 3-2 pitch
Here are three observations:
• If you need one example of young players getting it done for their club, look at Texas, where Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar and Nomara Mazara have helped the Rangers rule the AL West.
• It’s good to see Justin Morneau land with another club. The former MVP has signed with the White Sox, which means his comeback will take place in a pretty good ballpark for hitters.
• If MLB wants to showcase the draft, move the first day to Monday and make it an off day across the league. Make it the only event that day so fans and media can focus on it.
... and two predictions
• Boston should have three locks for the All-Star Game — Xander Bogaerts, David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. Steven Wright could make the pitching staff. Dustin Pedroia is a long shot.
• The Twins will try to do more but will make just one trade before the Aug. 1 deadline for trades without waivers.