The Kansas City Royals experienced a scary moment over the weekend when Yordano Ventura left Monday's start with elbow discomfort. The organization announced a setback to prospect Kyle Zimmer this morning. It has been a rough few days to be a Kansas City pitcher.
Ventura has been a huge positive in the rotation this year for the Royals. Despite his record of two wins and five losses, he has thrown very well in the early part of this season. Through 10 starts, he has notched more than 57 innings pitched, striking out 59 hitters while walking 19. His ERA hovers just below 3.50, and his WHIP stands at 1.256. All very impressive numbers for a young hurler who throws his fastball consistently around 100 miles per hour.
Brad Pinkerton of Sporting News obtained an update that offers the Royals a bit of encouragement:
Royals manager Ned Yost was assured by trainers that Ventura's injury was not to his ulnar collateral ligament. The discomfort was on the lateral (outside) part of the elbow. This is a sliver of positive news, but more will be known following the MRI later in the day.
The loss of Ventura opens up a potential spot in the rotation, at least on a temporary basis. While there are various options, fans would like to hear that Zimmer could be considered for an early audition.
Problem is, Zimmer hasn't thrown an inning yet this season.
Zimmer was presumably healthy despite his inactivity. The team even said as much when talking with Jim Callis of MLB.com earlier in May. It was a strategic move to help the pitcher be ready to pitch at a high level late in the season. The Royals seemed to be taking a new approach in order to maximize Zimmer's potential immediately.
However, in a press release sent out by the team this morning, the Royals confirmed that Zimmer was experiencing lat pain and would be sidelined for six to eight weeks. The press release reads:
The Kansas City Royals announced today that right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer will miss additional time this season with a strain in his right latissimus dorsi muscle. Zimmer, the fifth overall selection in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, will begin playing catch again in six to eight weeks.
With Zimmer on the shelf and Ventura likely headed there himself, the Royals are left with a decision to make in the next few days regarding their rotation. There are options in Omaha, the Triple-A affiliate of the Royals. Most of the staff there has pitched well this season, and any one of the starters would be worthy of a promotion.
To promote from Omaha would require a roster move, however. The Royals currently have a full 40-man roster. None of the starting pitchers in Omaha hold a spot on that roster.
The likely move will be to activate Bruce Chen from the disabled list. Chen, who threw a simulated game a little over a week ago, should be ready to return to the rotation in the near future.
The Royals need Ventura healthy if they want to continue winning this season.
Statistics courtesy of MLB.com and current as of May 27.