A pair of dark sunglasses shielded his eyes from the mid-morning sun, but Dave Eiland could not hide his smile. Eiland, the Royals pitching coach, had just overseen a series of bullpen sessions on Wednesday. A fellow observer asked about Yordano Ventura, the undersized but at times overwhelming right-hander.
“He’s a special talent,” Eiland said with a grin. “That’s for sure. It jumps out of his hand.”
Ventura is just one precious commodity on display here. As pitchers and catchers report on Friday morning, the organization holds high hopes for prospects like Ventura, left-hander Danny Duffy and former top-five pick Kyle Zimmer. Both Ventura and Duffy will compete with Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis for the final spot in the starting rotation.
“Everybody is healthy,” Eiland said. “All these guys showed up — you can tell they did their work. Early on, I couldn’t be more pleased with what I’m seeing. But, like I said, it’s early. Once the hitters step in the box, that’s when we’ll get a clearer view.”
That will happen a little later than usual this year.
When camp opens, Eiland indicated there would be a slight alteration to the pitching schedule. In years past, he said, the pitchers threw a round of live batting practice on the first day. This year, they would delay that until the third day of camp, in order to avoid fatigue.
Eiland noticed last spring that by the third round of live batting practice, “guys were dragging.” So instead, the pitchers will spend the first two days throwing side sessions. The team has the time to protect their arms, he said.
“We’re more of a veteran staff now, even though we’re still young,” he said. “Guys have got some time in, and they know how to manage it and get themselves ready.”