Ventura confident going into Game 2 start
Flame-throwing right-hander shakes off woes of AL Wild Card outing
ANAHEIM -- The Royals always planned to start Yordano Ventura in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Angels. There was just that small matter of addressing his blowup in Tuesday's Wild Card Game.
So on Wednesday, manager Ned Yost and Ventura, the 23-year-old flame-throwing rookie from the Dominican Republic, sat down to discuss the outing, which lasted one-third of an inning and was quickly marred by a go-ahead home run to the A's Brandon Moss on just his third pitch.
The aftermath of the meeting? Yost and Ventura are both more confident than ever that Ventura is the right guy for Game 2 on Friday night in Anaheim.
"First thing he asked me is if I was OK, if I was feeling good, and I said yes," Ventura said through a translator. "My response also was the fact that I want to take advantage of this opportunity. ... I know that I can do it better the second time around. Ned gave me a lot of confidence by naming me to pitch tomorrow."
Appointing Ventura as the Game 2 starter may have come as a surprise to some. For one, Ventura just pitched on Tuesday night -- although Yost simply equated that outing to a high-leverage throw day.
Yost also opted for Ventura in a pivotal game on the road over 11-year veteran Jeremy Guthrie and the slightly more proven Danny Duffy.
"We've got a lot of confidence in [Ventura's] ability," Yost said. "When you throw a 100-mph fastball and 95-mph two-seamer and 94-mph cutter and a nice curveball and nice changeup -- I think everybody has confidence in him."
Understandably, Ventura's fastball gets all the attention, but it's his offspeed pitches that turned him into a complete pitcher this season. His 183 innings were easily the most among all Major League rookies, and his 3.20 ERA was fifth. (Friday's starter for the Angels, Matt Shoemaker, is fourth, at 3.04.)
Perhaps the most important factor in Yost's decision to start Ventura was the mix of putaway pitches coming from a lively right-handed arm against a lineup with no shortage of righty pop.
"We looked at [whether] the predominantly right-handed hitters would be a better match up for Ventura," Yost said. "We think so, with his power."
Ventura faced the Angels once this season -- a rain-shortened start in June in which he allowed two runs in four innings and took the loss.
"Everybody knows they do have a very potent lineup and a lot of guys out there that can hurt you," Ventura said. "But I think my main concern is to know that I go out there and make some pitches. Making some pitches means I've got to put it in good spots against very dangerous people."
Of course, one of those "very dangerous people" is Ventura's countryman Albert Pujols.
"It's very special to face a guy like Albert Pujols," Ventura said. "No. 1, I know what he's done on the field -- tremendous credentials. But also, I know what he's done off the field, somebody that actually grew up and is from the Dominican. We all idolize players, and he's one of those guys that everybody idolizes, and we know who Albert Pujols is. But I also have a job to do tomorrow, and my job is to go out there and make pitches and get Albert Pujols out."
Easier said than done, of course, and the same goes for Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun and Erick Aybar.
Facing that lineup on such a quick turnaround gives Ventura little time to dwell on Tuesday's struggles. He even got some advice from one of his pitching idols, Pedro Martinez, on national TV, with Martinez essentially telling him to stay positive.
Ventura said that hearing Martinez speak directly to him "did make me feel pretty special." He added that he was disappointed seeing himself hang his head while watching replays of the home run.
But even if the results weren't there on Tuesday night, at the very least, he got himself some pivotal playoff experience. What did he learn?
"Things do happen very quickly, and I got myself into trouble in that situation," he said. "Even though I don't treat it as a different game, it is a different game."