Judgment day arrived for Royals pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Yordano Ventura on Tuesday afternoon, and manager Ned Yost could not help but breathe a sigh of relief.
Major League Baseball censured both pitchers for targeting Oakland Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie over the weekend, but neither absorbed a sizable penalty. Herrera received a five-game suspension and a fine, while Ventura escaped with only a fine.
To Yost, the penalties were “honestly better than I expected,” he said before Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Herrera will appeal his suspension. Team officials estimated the process will take about two weeks to complete, as Herrera sets up virtual meetings with representatives of the MLB office and the MLBPA to hear his case. Through a team spokesman, Herrera declined comment until his appeal was decided upon. The fines against both players were undisclosed.
With Herrera awaiting an appeal, he is available to Yost for the foreseeable future. The Royals require his presence as they play without closer Greg Holland, who has yet to resume throwing since straining his right pectoral muscle Friday. Herrera placed his readiness in jeopardy when he threw a 100-mph fastball behind Lawrie’s back in Sunday’s eighth inning.
Herrera received an immediate ejection, one of five Royals tossed before their 4-2 comeback victory. The league office suspended Herrera for “intentionally throwing a pitch in the head area” of Lawrie after both benches had received warnings. Earlier in the game, Oakland starter Scott Kazmir had hit Lorenzo Cain in the foot. As Herrera walked off the diamond, he pointed at his head while looking at Lawrie.
Herrera returned to action the next night. He pitched a scoreless inning as the Royals defeated the Twins 7-1 on Monday. His presence bolsters the bullpen as Luke Hochevar rebuilds arm strength in Class AAA Omaha and Holland recovers from injury.
“It gives us a little more time to get Greg going,” Yost said. “He’s feeling a little bit better, which is good news. But we’re still a ways away from him coming back. He hasn’t even picked up a baseball since this happened. And probably won’t for a couple more days.”
Sunday was only the final day of hostility between the two clubs. Major League Baseball levied a fine against Ventura for “intentionally throwing a pitch” at Lawrie, a day after Lawrie injured the knee of shortstop Alcides Escobar with a takeout slide at second base.
Ventura indicated he had not been informed the amount of the fine. The lack of a suspension pleased him.
“He was happy he didn’t get any games,” second baseman Christian Colon said as he translated for Ventura. “He’s here to help the team. The thing that got him in this trouble is that he’s just trying to protect his teammates. And trying to be there for his team. And that’s it.”
In his last two starts, Ventura has jawed with Angels superstar Mike Trout and drilled Lawrie. He indicated he had little interest in repeating this drama.
“That’s not what he’s looking for,” Colon said. “He’s not doing that on purpose. He’s just trying to make sure that he’s sticking up for his team. But, no, he’s definitely not looking to do this again. Ever.”
As he expressed his relief at the result, Yost opted to cast blame upon himself. He stressed the youth of his club — Herrera is 25, Ventura is 23 — and their lack of experience in high-profile, high-pressure regular season series.
“A lot of this is probably my fault,” Yost said. “Because these kids have never been through this. And it’s my job, and it’s our job, to teach them how to deal with these situations. But we’ve never been confronted with these situations. So it’s actually been a good thing for us.”
While observers around the league debate the merits of the club’s behavior, the team has opted for internal unity. Players have spoken repeatedly about the merits of their approach. They view themselves as a family, and they will act when they feel they have been wronged.
Yost hopes, in the future, his players will act in a fashion that doesn’t place them in jeopardy of fines or suspensions.
“Good things do come out of it,” Yost said. “Even though it was nasty, and it was bad. This week, I think that we all learned really good lessons how to do things better. So I’m happy about that, going forward.”
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