Everyone already knew that Royals rookie Yordano Ventura throws incredibly hard, but his 2014 debut last night was on a whole different level.
Ventura–who won’t be 23 years old until June–tossed six innings of shutout, two-hit ball against the Rays and, according to MLB.com’s PitchFX system, topped out at 102.9 miles per hour with his fastball.
That’s some Aroldis Chapman territory, which is rarefied air for a starter, and PitchFX also says Ventura averaged 99.5 mph on 45 total fastballs last night. Last season, during an impressive three-start debut for the Royals, his fastball averaged 97.5 mph. So maybe he’s throwing even harder now. [Drool.]
Some other amusing notes from Ventura’s first start of the season, via the indispensable Brooks Baseball: PitchFX says his “cutter” averaged 96.4 mph. So that’s what hitters have to deal with when he decides to take a little something off his fastball and add more movement. One of his “cutters” clocked in at 98.4 mph. Imagine trying to hit that. Oh, and his changeup averaged 89.5 mph, which is faster than many full-time starting pitcher’s fastballs.
Yordano Ventura: Must-See TV.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.