Duffy, Ventura need to step it up for Royals


JULY 2015– Entering July, the Kansas City Royals have a firm choke hold on first place in the American League Central.

Yet, they have done it with only minimum production from Yordano “Ace” Ventura and Danny Duffy, who opened the season as the club’s No. 1 and No. 2 starters.

Ventura won his first two starts, while Duffy was 2-0 with a 3.45 ERA in April. Then Duffy did a 180-degree reversal and went 0-3 with a 13.03 ERA in May.

Since Ventura won his first starts, he has won once since April 12. He pitched only six innings in two June starts before going on the disabled list.

Duffy, likewise, spent time on the DL.

Thankfully for the Royals, veterans Chris Young and Joe Blanton have been godsends to the rotation, while Ventura and Duffy were injured and ineffective.

While the Royals may run away with the Central, they are going to need Ventura, especially, and Duffy to step it up if they are going to go deep in the playoffs and make it back to the World Series.

“We need him,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said of Ventura. “We need him to pitch well obviously. I think he will.”

The Royals gave Ventura, a 24-year-old right-hander with a blazing fastball that touches three figures on radar guns, a five-year $24 million contract in early April.

Moore does not believe the multi-year, multi-million dollar contract has anything to do with Ventura’s poor first half of the season.

“I’ve never bought into the theory they’ve got their money now and they’re just going off into the sunset,” Moore said. “These guys want to play well. They want to earn their contract, prove that they deserve (it).

surplusexchange.org“We believe in him. Obviously, we gave him a long-term contract. In giving him a long-term contract, we believe that he would perform over the lifetime of that contract. Our medical people felt there was no reason not to give him a long-term contract.

“And we felt like it wouldn’t rob his incentive to continue to move forward and perform.”

A 3-6 record with a 4.68 ERA and one victory in nearly three months is not what the Royals are expecting.

“I think he’s probably putting a little too much pressure on himself,” Moore said. “He’ll get through it. He’s just got to learn to manage the expectations. It’s difficult to manage failure. And it’s as difficult to manage success. You have to be able to manage both ways, both areas. He’s got to learn to deal with that and he will.”

In World Series Game 6, Ventura threw seven scoreless innings to beat the San Francisco Giants.

“We saw how Yordano responded last year in the playoffs,” Moore said. “He faced an elimination game and pitched brilliant for us in the playoffs. He was on the attack. He didn’t back down. It’s all in there.”

That’s what the Royals were optimistic they would see more of this year, but Ventura has been inconsistent. He has failed to put together solid back-to-back starts since April 12.

“He’s just an outstanding young pitcher,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We’ve got a lot of high hopes going forward. He’s a special breed of player, tremendous stuff and composure, a tremendous competitor; all things hard to find in a young pitcher of his caliber. To me, it is almost like he is a complete package. He is going to be very, very successful in Major League Baseball. There’s no telling what he can achieve.”

The Royals need Ventura to come off the disabled list in July and remain healthy for the rest of the year, including October.

If the Royals advance to the World Series, they will need someone to match up against a Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals or Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. That man should be Ventura.

“At the end of the day, the talent it always wins,” Moore said. “As long as they are making good choices and their character is remaining strong and they love to compete and they love to play baseball, and they tough through things, the talent is going to win out.”

Duffy, too, has the talent to be a top-of-the-line starter on a championship club. Injuries and lack of command have held back Duffy, a 26-year-old left-hander with a mid-90s mile per hour fastball.

In his first nine starts, he had allowed 54 hits, walked 15 and hit two batters in 43 innings. Opponents are hitting .310 off him with a .379 on-base percentage and an .832 OPS.

Duffy’s stuff is too good for those types of numbers. The Royals will need Duffy to pitch better going forward.

Reaching the World Series without Ventura and/or Duffy throwing well is not impossible. It will just make the road more difficult.

Article by Alan Eskew

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