Hopefully Ventura won't be a distraction

By Steve Sell
July 23, 2015

Given all the sunshine beaming down on the hot-as-the-weather Kansas City Royals, you have to wonder why the storm cloud that is Yordano Ventura is still in the dugout.

On Tuesday, the Royals — having wearied with the young phenom’s struggles and petulant attitude — announced they were sending him down Ventura Highway to Omaha for what was perceived as a much-needed skull session.

That night, Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas had his elbow explode, ending his season and perhaps canceling his 2016 season as well.

Presto, Ventura is back, along with the distraction he is providing if he continues on his current path.

I probably shouldn’t be questioning General Manager Dayton Moore. He has been baseball’s Midas, as nearly every move he has made has turned to gold. Need a solid starting pitcher? Edinson Volquez has been none-too-shabby. Looking to add a spot starter? How about Chris Young? Lose your longtime DH Billy Butler to Oakland? Say hello to Kendrys Morales. How about a veteran reliever who’s been through the wars? Ryan Madson is your man.

The only move that has received lukewarm response is the signing of Alex Rios, but he gets somewhat of a pass. He was red-hot to start the season, suffered a broken hand the second week, and looked as though he forgot how to hit when he came back. But Rios is finally starting to find his form, though at times it doesn’t look like he’s going all-out and is holding something back. Since Alex Gordon has gotten hurt, though, he’s been a near-.400 hitter.

So I guess Dayton knows best.

However, Ventura’s 24-hour optioning now looks like little more than a scolding. Anybody who has watched the Royals on a regular basis knows what kind of season it’s been for Ventura, who was the talk of baseball last fall with his poise and Aroldis Chapman-like fastball. He acted like he was shot on Opening Day when he flopped to the ground and all it turned out to be was a hand cramp. He then started to act like a tough guy, woofing at opposing players —including Mike Trout, the best player in baseball — and inciting high tension with opponents.

Suddenly, the cool, calm and collected kid became a hot head, a real live wire. Kansas City officials have tried to downplay his antics, but you know they are concerned. After all, they had just shelled out $23 million and moved him to the head of the starting rotation, their ace for the next 10 years.

Ventura wouldn’t have been the first Royal sent down to regroup. Gordon, Butler, Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy have had to ride the buses for Omaha and all came back the better for it.

That’s why I don’t understand why the Royals reneged on Ventura’s optioning. Sure, they needed another pitcher, but longtime prospect John Lamb is at Omaha treating batters like they are in single-A ball. He could come up for a couple of weeks while the Royals re-program Ventura. And now with Kris Medlen aboard, he could at least give them four or five innings as his arm strength builds back up. He showed flashes the other night when needed. And there’s still Joe Blanton, who at times appears headed back to the scrap heap, but then has a gem of a night to get back on solid footing.

There’s no question Ventura has the talent to be a dominant pitcher, he proved that last year on the sport’s biggest stage in Game 6 of the World Series with a masterful performance. He has an electric fastball and just enough of a curve to be effective. He’s been likened to Pedro Martinez, who is going into the Hall of Fame next month.

Maybe Ventura can hit Pedro up for some tips.