COMMENTARY | After taking the opening game by the final count of 7-1 on Monday night, the Kansas City Royals will rely on top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura to start the second game of a pivotal series with the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.
Ventura will take Danny Duffy's spot in the rotation. Duffy is being skipped due to inflammation in his pitching elbow -- the same elbow repaired by Tommy John surgery just last year.
Though admittedly a precautionary move, Kansas City does not want any questions lingering about Duffy's health -- who figures to be a key part of the starting rotation in 2014. If that means holding him out for the rest of this season, others will have to step up in his place and Ventura is first up.
"It's just inflamed," Duffy told The Kansas City Star. "I had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging test), and it confirmed I have no structural damage whatsoever. We're all just taking some precautions."
In five starts this season, Duffy was 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 24.1 innings pitched.
Manager Ned Yost considered utilizing the bullpen to relieve Duffy, but opted for Ventura to instead make his major league debut -- though this will be his second appearance at Kauffman Stadium, as he started for the World team in the 2012 All-Star Futures game.
"We all thought about just doing a bullpen day (to replace Duffy)," Yost said, "but the intrigue ... let's see what we've got. It's kind of a tough spot to put Ventura in, but he's got good-enough stuff.
Though his slight frame might fool some (5 feet 11 inches and 180 pounds), Ventura will test the Indians' lineup with a triple-digit fastball and will try to keep the hitters off balance with a hard slider, a dynamic curve ball and a good changeup.
The high-leverage situation increases the spotlight on Ventura's debut, but the young right-hander is up to the challenge.
"This is the highest level of baseball," he said, "so every time I go out there to pitch I'm going to give everything I can in my power, so I can do a good job."
The Royals are putting a lot of faith in Ventura to keep alive faint hopes of making the postseason for the first time since 1985. Should Kansas City finish the season on the outside of the playoff race, however, seeing what the youngster is made of now could pay huge dividends in the future for this organization.Jeremy Sickel has successfully created and operated numerous websites. His work can be read on Yahoo and Bleacher Report, and he has also appeared on various podcasts and sports talk shows around the country. Interact with Jeremy on Twitter @JeremySickel
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