Royals

Yordano Ventura leaves early as Royals fall to Cardinals 4-0

The Cardinals' Kolten Wong (left) gets back to first base safely ahead of the tag by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer during the fifth inning of Friday’s baseball game in St. Louis.
The Cardinals' Kolten Wong (left) gets back to first base safely ahead of the tag by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer during the fifth inning of Friday’s baseball game in St. Louis. AP

The sensation snapped off like a light switch, as feeling departed from Yordano Ventura’s thumb, pinky and ring finger while he stood on the mound. In the latest malady to befall Ventura’s sophomore season, numbness immobilized his right hand and left him unable to grip the baseball in a 4-0 loss to the Cardinals.

He left the game after the third inning with the official diagnosis of “right hand weakness,” a condition so arcane that Royals manager Ned Yost told trainer Nick Kenney he could not remember a player ever suffering from it. The defeat snapped a four-game winning streak and cast a pall over the leaders in the American League Central.

The injury sounded both ominous and vague, enough to force Ventura’s premature exit from another game, enough to cause Yost to admit, “you have a level of concern, because you don’t really know what it is yet.” Ventura said he would undergo an MRI soon. Yost indicated the club could better discern Ventura’s fate on Saturday.

“I’m not speculating,” Yost said. “I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ve told you everything Nick told me. Because I’m doing the same thing. I go, ‘Right hand weakness? What are we talking about?’ We don’t know. We’ve got to find out.”

The training staff did not relay to Ventura, who is 3-6 with a 4.68 ERA, a potential cause of his ailment. Kenney declined to elaborate on Ventura’s upcoming examinations. “We will re-evaluate him tomorrow,” Kenney said in a statement issued through the team.

Both Yost and Ventura stressed the injury was unrelated to the cramping issue Ventura dealt with in April. Ventura had never before felt this sensation on the mound. As he played through it, his fastball velocity dipped to 91 mph. When he spoke at his locker more than two hours after he stopped pitching, he said the feeling had not completely returned to his hand.

“He didn’t feel right,” said Christian Colon, who translated for Ventura. “Just really numb. Couldn’t feel the grip of the ball. Couldn’t hold it tight. It just felt really weird.”

If Ventura requires a stint on the disabled list, the Royals possess a variety of options. They could accelerate Danny Duffy’s rehabilitation schedule, with Duffy slated to throw 65 pitches for Sunday with Class AAA Omaha. They could recall a rookie like John Lamb, who left his outing last night with the Storm Chasers after four scoreless innings. Or they could turn to veteran Joe Blanton, who replaced Ventura during Friday’s emergency.

Blanton contributed 2.2 scoreless innings. He kept the deficit at two runs, an amount too sizable for the Kansas City offense, which fell under the spell of St. Louis southpaw Jaime Garcia. Across eight innings, Garcia allowed only four hits. All were singles. None left the infield.

In the sixth, the Royals, 34-24, mounted their best charge. Mike Moustakas rolled an infield hit and so did Lorenzo Cain. Eric Hosmer stepped in against Garcia. He saw three sliders. He took one for a strike, fouled back another and then whiffed on a third in the dirt. He whipped his helmet back toward the Kansas City dugout in frustration, unable to touch Garcia.

“He was hitting his spots all night,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. “That’s the thing in this game: You hit your spots, throw the ball where you want it to go, in this league you’re going to be pretty dominant.”

It was that sort of game. St. Louis picked up two more runs after Alex Rios' flubbed a catch in the eighth.

The evening once more cast a spotlight on Ventura, who has toiled through two months of torment. The day before the season started, Ventura attended a press conference to celebrate a contract extension. The deal guaranteed him $23 million and opened up the possibility of as much as $32 million more in options. From there, the year has spiraled.

“He’s yet to get on a consistent-type roll,” Yost said.

Ventura departed his first two starts of the season because of cramps. He jawed with Angels superstar Mike Trout in the second outing, which served as a harbinger. Major League Baseball fined Ventura for drilling Oakland antagonist Brett Lawrie on April 18. The commissioner’s office suspended him eight games for sparking a brawl in Chicago five days later.

The fallout from the incident at U.S. Cellular Field rattled Ventura. He apologized to his teammates, several of whom told him the Royals could not tolerate that type of behavior. Team officials felt he feared pitching inside upon his return. He gave up 14 runs in his next three outings. A pair of dominant starts in May acted as a mirage.

In his last outing, Ventura logged only three innings due to ineffectiveness. Yost suggested after that game that Ventura, asked to start Opening Day in his age-24 season, had burdened himself with too much responsibility. The stress has manifested in occasional outbursts on the mound and lapses in concentration. Both Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland have counseled Ventura about trusting himself and reducing the weight on his shoulders.

“These things are all learned habits through experience,” Yost said before Friday’s game. “You can’t tell somebody, ‘Hey, don’t put so much pressure on yourself.’”

Yost slapped his own forehead and mimicked a Eureka moment for the theoretical pupil. “’Oh, geez, why didn’t I think of that?’”

In time, Yost continued, Ventura will mature and learn these lessons. For now, the club must roll with his inconsistency. The Cardinals bruised him in the second inning thanks to a trio of two-out hits. After an infield single by Randal Grichuk, Jon Jay stroked a fastball into the right-field corner.

Grichuk scored and Jay reached third base when second baseman Omar Infante elected to throw home. Jay received credit for a triple. The extra 90 feet mattered, as Garcia slapped a single for another run.

During the earlier innings, Yost and Eiland wondered about Ventura’s velocity. His fastball hummed a touch lower than usual, but Ventura reported no symptoms or discomfort. That changed in the third.

As he faced first baseman Mark Reynolds, Ventura felt his hand go numb. Reynolds walked on four pitches. Behind the plate, Salvador Perez noticed Ventura’s fastball velocity decrease in the next at-bat with Yadier Molina. He visited Ventura on the mound and learned of his pitcher’s numbness.

Kenney met with Ventura after the inning. Kenney told Yost he worried Ventura might begin to alter his mechanics to compensate for the trouble. This can lead to injury, so Yost decided to end Ventura’s evening. “That was all I needed to hear,” Yost said.

Ventura has already left games this season due to physical ailments. The latest is the first to involve his prized right arm. The details were vague on Friday night. But the concern was real.

Now comes the waiting. A series of examinations could provide clarity on Ventura’s condition. The answer may have lasting consequences for this Royals season.

“When this happens, he doesn’t feel good,” Colon said. “He feels bad about it. He’s concerned. Because he wants to be there and help the team win. And he’s not doing that. He’s going through these things. He’s just trying to get with the trainers and figure it out, see what’s wrong with his fingers.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.


Cardinals 4, Royals 0

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Escobar ss

4

0

0

0

0

0

.260

Moustakas 3b

4

0

2

0

0

0

.321

Cain cf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.280

Hosmer 1b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.300

Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

1

.281

Gordon lf

3

0

1

0

0

1

.258

Rios rf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.210

Infante 2b

3

0

0

0

0

2

.209

Ventura p

1

0

0

0

0

1

.000

Blanton p

1

0

0

0

0

0

.000

F. Morales p

0

0

0

0

0

0

Madson p

0

0

0

0

0

0

a-K. Morales ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.286

Hochevar p

0

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

32

0

5

0

0

6

St. Louis

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Wong 2b

3

0

0

0

1

1

.296

Carpenter 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.291

Peralta ss

4

0

3

0

0

0

.323

Reynolds 1b

3

0

0

0

1

2

.252

Molina c

4

0

0

0

0

1

.274

Heyward rf

3

1

1

0

1

1

.252

Grichuk lf

4

2

2

1

0

0

.271

Jay cf

2

1

1

2

1

0

.229

Siegrist p

0

0

0

0

0

0

Garcia p

3

0

1

1

0

0

.091

b- Bourjos ph-cf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.253

Totals

31

4

8

4

4

7

Kansas City

000

000

000

0

5

0

St. Louis

020

000

02x

4

8

1

a-grounded out for Madson in the 8th. b-grounded out for Jai.Garcia in the 8th.

E: Wong (8). LOB: Kansas City 5, St. Louis 8. 2B: Heyward (12). 3B: Grichuk (3), Jay (1). RBIs: Grichuk (12), Jay 2 (9), Jai.Garcia (1). SF:Jay.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 2 (S.Perez, Hosmer); St. Louis 2 (Reynolds, Jai.Garcia). RISP: Kansas City 0 for 4; St. Louis 1 for 4. Runners moved up: L.Cain, Grichuk.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Ventura L, 3-6

3

4

2

2

1

2

52

4.68

Blanton

2.2

2

0

0

2

2

48

1.80

Morales

1

1

0

0

0

1

16

2.92

Madson

.1

0

0

0

0

1

3

2.08

Hochevar

1

1

2

2

1

1

21

7.00

St. Louis

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Garcia W, 2-3

8

4

0

0

0

6

96

2.06

Siegrist

1

1

0

0

0

0

19

1.65

Inherited runners-scored: F.Morales 2-0, Madson 1-0. IBB: off Blanton (Jay).

Umpires: Home, Tony Randazzo; First, Will Little; Second, Phil Cuzzi; Third, Gerry Davis. Time:2:38. Att:45,909.

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