In the wake of a brawl in Baltimore, Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was hit with a nine-game suspension on Thursday. The Royals will appeal the decision, which could allow Ventura to make his next start on Monday, but the penalty from Major League Baseball provided the latest fallout from a wild tussle with Orioles shortstop Manny Machado on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.
Machado, 23, received a four-game suspension for his part in the incident. He will also appeal the decision.
According to Major League Baseball, Ventura drew his suspension “for intentionally throwing at Machado and fighting” while Machado drew a four-game ban “for charging the mound and fighting.”
Considering the particulars of the incident and Ventura’s recent past, his penalty could be considered light. Even if his appeal fails, he will miss just one start and could return on regular rest within 10 days.
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Ventura was unavailable for comment on Thursday as the Royals enjoyed a day off in Chicago before opening a three-game series against the White Sox on Friday. Machado was in the lineup for the Orioles as they opened a series against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
On Wednesday, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he trusted that Major League Baseball would levy a fair decision.
Ventura, meanwhile, said he didn’t believe his behavior warranted a suspension.
“I don’t think that should be in order,” Ventura said Tuesday, through translator Pedro Grifol. “My plan was to pitch inside and one got away. And things happened, and benches cleared.”
The incident occurred in the bottom of the fifth inning of the Royals’ 9-1 loss to the Orioles on Tuesday. With one out in the inning, Ventura buried a 99 mph fastball into the ribs of Machado, who instantly took off toward the mound. Machado landed a glancing right hand as Ventura tried to shuffle out of the way. Both players went crashing to the ground as Ventura wrapped up Machado’s legs.
On Wednesday, Royals manager Ned Yost pushed back against the idea that Ventura should be punished for fighting. He also pointed to a measure of provocation from Machado during an earlier at-bat. In the bottom of the second, Ventura came inside twice before Machado flied out to left field. As Machado returned to the dugout, he shouted in the direction of Ventura.
“He gets thrown into the spotlight that he’s guilty,” Yost said of Ventura on Wednesday. “There’s more to this thing.”
Ventura comes by his reputation honestly, of course. In 2015, he stared down Angels center fielder Mike Trout during an early-season series in Anaheim. He hit Oakland’s Brett Lawrie as payback for a hard slide on Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Ventura earned a seven-game suspension for his part in a melee with the Chicago White Sox.
When the 2016 season began, Ventura sought to move on from his checkered past. His performance has only led to more question marks. In 12 starts, Ventura has posted a 4-4 record with a 5.32 ERA. He leads the American League with 35 walks and his strikeout rate (six per nine innings) is the lowest of his career.
On Tuesday, Ventura allowed at least six earned runs for the second time in three starts. Since the beginning of May, his ERA is 6.46. For now, the Royals have shown an inclination to stick by him, even amidst trade rumors that surfaced earlier this week. The Royals still believe in the natural talent in Ventura’s right arm. For now, they also lack suitable alternatives.
As of Thursday, Ventura was slated to start on Monday against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. He will likely make that appearance with his appeal still pending.