Prospect's early hook a pleasant surprise: 'You're going to Omaha'

May 28th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- was around the 70-pitch mark after five innings during his start for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on May 18, and having been efficient, he figured he would have the sixth inning.

So when Northwest Arkansas manager Tommy Shields came over to shake Veneziano’s hand, signaling the end of his outing, the lefty was confused.

“Well, we can’t have you throw anymore because you’re not on the team anymore,” Veneziano remembers Shields explaining. “You’re going to Omaha."

That’s when Veneziano learned of his promotion to Triple-A.

“That was an OK reason to get pulled,” Veneziano said. “It happened in a flash. I told my teammates, texted my mom and was driving to Omaha the next morning.”

Veneziano, 25, posted a 2.13 ERA with a 28.4% strikeout rate and just a 3% walk rate across eight starts this year in Double-A, a big turnaround from last year in Northwest Arkansas when he was walking batters at an 11.7% clip with a 5.72 ERA.

Looking more like the top-ranked prospect he was entering ‘22, Veneziano quickly showed he was ready for the next level this season. Now comes the adjustment to Triple-A hitters. Veneziano allowed five runs on five hits in two innings in his Triple-A debut against St. Paul (Twins) on May 24.

“There will be things I need to do better up here that I might have gotten away with in Northwest,” Veneziano said. “I think I threw the ball pretty well, I just didn’t have that put-away pitch. I was making good pitches, they were fouling off a ton. I might have gotten away with that a little bit in Northwest, maybe getting a ground ball or weak contact. But Royce Lewis and I had an [11-pitch] at-bat. I’ve got to read the hitters a little bit better up here. That will take some time, so I’m excited to keep doing the work.”

The biggest difference between this season and last for Veneziano is his delivery. The 6-foot-5 lefty has complex mechanics, and he found himself out of whack too many times last season, unable to find the zone and locate his pitches.

A detailed offseason plan put together by the Royals and Veneziano focused on drills he could do to iron out the delivery issues while focusing on his pitch characteristics to make his arsenal better.

“The work I’ve done to get my mechanics where they are, to get my mental capacity where it is now -- it’s a lot easier to clear whatever just happened and go to the next pitch, focus on what’s ahead and not what’s behind,” Veneziano said. “And just have fun with it, honestly. I’m having way more fun this year.”

Now armed with cues that help his delivery get back in sync, Veneziano can focus more on the hitter rather than simply trying to find the zone every start.

“My attention is now on the hitter, what he’s looking for, what he’s seeing, what I’m seeing, instead of just trying to throw it where I’m supposed to throw it because my mechanics are so messed up,” he said. “It’s made it a lot easier and a little more stress-free when I go out there."

Other notable Minor League performances

High-A Quad Cities entered Sunday with 11 consecutive wins, and Javier Vaz was the hero on Saturday with a walk-off single in the 11th inning. No. 25 prospect has been a standout pitcher for the River Bandits, with a 2.42 ERA in eight starts this year. On Friday, the righty tossed six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts -- his fourth consecutive start of six innings and one or fewer runs allowed.

• With Single-A Columbia, No. 6 prospect and , the Royals’ 11th-round pick last year, have anchored the pitching staff to be one of the best in Single-A, with Mozzicato leading the Carolina League in strikeouts (64), innings pitched (41 1/3) and opponents’ average (.156) entering Sunday. The lefty’s 2.18 ERA ranks fourth in the league, while Sandlin ranks among league leaders in strikeouts (third, 52) and ERA (sixth, 3.19).

• With outfielder returning to Kansas City this weekend, he immediately graduated off the Royals’ prospect list. Shortstop slid onto the list, ranked No. 30. The 20-year-old is slashing .214/.326/.342 with a .668 in his first taste of Single-A this season.