KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura will make his major league debut for the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night when he takes Danny Duffy's place in the rotation against Cleveland.
Duffy has been experiencing some inflammation in his surgically repaired left elbow, and the Royals decided to give Ventura the start in a critical series with playoff implications.
The Royals were 3 1/2 games behind Texas in the AL wild-card standings entering Monday night's series opener against the Indians. Cleveland began the day a half-game back.
"We're all excited to see Ventura pitch," Royals 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."
With a fastball that touches triple-digits, a hard slider, decent change-up and knee-buckling curveball, Ventura has shot through the Royals' system. He began the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and advanced to Triple-A Omaha, where he was 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA.
Ventura helped the Storm Chasers win the Pacific Coast League championship, though he was pulled from his start in a playoff game for "undisclosed team violations."
Ventura declined to address the violations when he arrived in the clubhouse Monday, but he said through a translator — Royals veteran Bruce Chen — that he was ready for the spotlight.
"This is the highest level of baseball," he said, "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."
Chen said that the veteran members of the Royals talked to Ventura about whatever happened at Omaha and believes the 22-year-old pitcher has learned from his mistake.
"He's young and I'm glad it happened early," Chen said. "He's going to learn from this and become a much better person and teammate."
While nothing compares to making a major league debut, especially in a playoff race, Ventura will have some comfort in having pitched at Kauffman Stadium. He's pitched in the last two Futures Games during All-Star festivities, including the one hosted by the Royals last season.
"Yeah," Ventura said, "it is an advantage that I know a little more about the stadium."
Duffy said that he experienced discomfort in his elbow after a side session Saturday. He had an MRI exam on Monday that found inflammation but no structural damage.
"No throwing off the mound for the next few days," Duffy said. "A lot of treatment and just try to get the inflammation down in the flexors. There's really nothing else I could do. It's not serious. I need to make sure that swelling goes down before I do anything intense."
Duffy was 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA in five starts with the Royals this season.
"We're going to use the utmost caution with him right now, coming off Tommy John surgery," Yost said. "We're just going to be real, real cautious with it. Guys pitch with that, but coming off Tommy John surgery, we don't want to push it at all."
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