The last 24 hours have not been kind for the likes of Royals faithful.
Yordano Ventura was roughed up for 7 hits and 5 runs before departing after 2 and 2/3 innings with an apparent elbow injury which was later described as being “lateral” tightness. Ventura is expected to undergo an MRI today to reveal the extent of damage.
After watching this lifeless Royals team be spanked around in front of a jam packed K, and seeing one of the few glimmers of hope for the future leave the game with an elbow injury, it was also reported by the Royals that pitcher Kyle Zimmer suffered tightness in a throwing session May 19th. Zimmer is expected to be out 6-8 weeks now, which will severely diminish the chance that he will be pitching in Kansas City this season.
For those following along, this season has been frustrating for most (to say the least) in the aspect that the Royals have been unable to piece together the type of production that came with the potential many of these players brought into 2014. It was one thing for young stars such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer to continue to struggle as they have yet to be consistent contributors, but when players like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler fail to produce as well then disappointing results are sure to follow.
For much of this not so young season, the much noted offensive struggles have been buoyed by the pitching staff. This staff was one that had many question marks at the beginning of the season, but none stuck out more than what might come of young phenom Yordano “Ace” Ventura. With an electric fastball capable of touching triple digits, he was expected to be a high wire trapeze act of unharnessed potential. Not since the days of Zack Grienke have Royals fans had a single player that could single handedly drive attendance up, and Ventura was proving to be just that.
Mondays game provided a painful reminder that all hard throwing pitchers are susceptible to injury, especially ones that stand below 6 foot tall with a lightly built frame. While this injury may yet prove to be nothing more than a minor setback upon the results of the MRI, much of the damage has been done to those who placed hope in the arm of Ventura.
To add insult to injury, the report of Zimmers injury provided an even starker outlook of things to come as he was anointed in the preseason to be a late season candidate to ride into Kansas City on the heels of dominating the minors and push the contending Royals to the first playoff birth in a generation.
With an offense showing no signs of breaking out, and providing only a glimmer of fools gold of late by producing runs with “small ball,” todays news on Ventura suddenly becomes like a verdict being returned by a jury on just how much hope to carry on for the rest of 2014. There is no longer a Zimmer waiting in the wings to fill in, and with Danny Duffy already taking over for Bruce Chen (initially reported to be out until June) there are no good options. The Kansas City Royals NEED Yordano Ventura, and they need him to be good. They aren’t sitting at .500 because they are a decent team, they are sitting at .500 because of pitching and pitching alone.
With 2013 being the year of George Bretts glorious return and the incredible winning power of Billy Butler’s Hit it a Ton Rallysauce, good fortunes began to shine on the Royals at about this time, and they used that for a significant end of the year push that saw them stay in contention until the waning weeks of the season. With 2014 fast approaching the month of June, no more coaches to fire and a team struggling at every turn, losing Ventura can go one of two ways. There is no BBQ sauce that is going to save this team, but in the wake of disaster it might prove to produce something the Royals sorely need and something that they artificially created last year with Brett, and that is a true leader. If and who that might be however…well…I have my doubts.
The Royals sit with a record of 24-26 after an easy schedule to start the year, and the two most promising pitching canidates for end of the year success are injured. The team stands within striking distance of where it did a year ago with no more momentum than it did then. Something must change, otherwise it will be just another Royals season.