Less than 12 hours after tossing seven no-hit innings against the Mariners in an extended Cactus League appearance on March 27, Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura was back in the training room at 5:45 a.m. preparing for Monday’s opening-day start.
While the 23-year-old Ventura’s strength and poise shined brightly in his rookie campaign, Royals manager Ned Yost said it’s Ventura’s work behind the scenes like that morning in late March that made Saturday’s five-year $23 million contract announcement most intriguing for the club. The deal, which runs through 2019, also includes club options in 2020 and 2021.
“He’s the kind of guy that you can give a long-term contract and trust that he is going to do everything he can to fulfill that contract to the best of his ability,” Yost said. “He is not going to take anything for granted, he is going to continue to be a professional, continue to work his tail off and continue to keep himself in tip-top shape.”
Ventura, through translator Jeremy Guthrie, in turn thanked the ownership for their faith in him.
“I am very grateful to be healthy and to be in the situation to sign this contract,” Ventura said. “I am also grateful to the Glass family not only for this contract, but the first one that was signed in the Dominican Republic at 17 years old. Also for the confidence they have in me to reward me with this.”
Ventura explained that the deal offered stability and flexibility to return to the Dominican Republic to see his family.
“It has a lot to do with my family and the ability to get back and help out,” Ventura said. “This is a situation that allows me to do that and now I want to continue to pitch well, stay healthy and be able to play well during the contract.”
General Manager Dayton Moore said early negotiations focused on a one-year contract with possible motives for a longer deal which contributed to the slow progress.
However, with opening-day approaching, the conversation picked up in the last four of five days with a goal either to reach a decision or table discussion.
“He is really a once-in-10-year type of talent that comes along and we have to move forward and get those kind of players signed long-term,” Moore said. “Fortunately it worked.”
Ventura, who will be the Royals’ second youngest opening-day starter in club history, is coming off a 14-10 record with a 3.20 ERA across 30 starts last year. He led American League rookies with 22 quality starts, 183 innings and a .240 opponent batting average. His ERA ranked 10th in the league overall.
He became the fourth Royals rookie to make 30 or more starts and his 14 victories ranked fourth all-time by a first-year pitcher in Kansas City.
In five postseason appearances and four starts, Ventura went 1-0 with a 3.20 ERA and 14 strikeouts. He allowed just two runs in 12 1/3 innings during two World Series starts. He earned the victory in game six with seven shutout innings.