Opinion

Royals hope Yordano Ventura can improve hydration, diet to avoid cramps

Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura writhed in pain after experiencing cramping in his arm in the sixth inning on opening day at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura writhed in pain after experiencing cramping in his arm in the sixth inning on opening day at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

Yordano Ventura felt his right foot tighten up as he dueled with Angels star Mike Trout in the sixth inning of a Royals romp on Sunday. It was the onset of a cramp in his right calf and a recurrence of the issue that plagued him in his first start of the season.

In two outings this year, Ventura has proved both intimidating to opposing hitters and susceptible to dehydration.

Ventura dealt with this issue in “very mild” fashion in 2014, team trainer Nick Kenney indicated on Monday afternoon. But never to this degree. To combat the issue, Kenney and the training staff will continue to work with Ventura to keep him upright during the more humid summer months.

Ventura requires tweaks to his fluid intake and pregame eating habits, Kenney explained. Kenney suggested that Ventura sometimes does not eat as much as he needs to before games, which can contribute to his condition.

“It’s not just about drinking,” Kenney said. “It’s about eating, too. And some guys get a nervous stomach. And they don’t want to eat on the day that they’re pitching. Well, that’s fuel. That’s like gasoline. If you want to go on a trip, you’ve got to put gas in your car, or you’re not going to make it.”

He added: “He eats. But he doesn’t take in quantities that he needs to. And he’s getting better. It’s a process.”

The alterations to his fluids are not surprising. Kenney explained Ventura needs to drink enough water, Gatorade or electrolyte-heavy beverages to offset whatever soda, coffee, sugar-bloated drinks, energy drinks or alcohol he may consume during the week. As Kenney explained it, “You have to always replace those fluid ounces with good fluid ounces.”

Ventura experienced a cramp in his right hand on opening day. He fell to the ground and flung his glove off his left hand. He cradled his hand in agony for a few minutes. He did not experience such histrionics on Sunday, but the result was still the same. Ventura left early with Kenney at his side.

The exit followed a contentious exchange with Trout. Ventura stared Trout down after Trout hit a line drive up the middle. Trout yelled at Ventura from first base. When Trout came around to score, he crossed paths with Ventura. The two jawed before catcher Salvador Perez ferried Ventura away.

A day later, manager Ned Yost was still unsure what exactly caused the dust-up. He understood why his pitcher responded with such fury, though.

“When he gets fired up, he’s like an assassin out there,” Yost said. “They’re trying to keep him contained and within himself so things don’t get out of hand. He looks small, or he looks thin, but he’s a competitor out there. And he’s not afraid of no man.”

Ventura may not fear man, but he also must learn to embrace the power of bananas and water retention. The training staff would like to avoid any further cramping before the summer begins.

“He needs to salt his food more,” Kenney said. “He needs to add potassium in his diet. He needs to get more calcium, protein.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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