Royals demote Opening Day starter Yordano Ventura to Triple-A

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Yordano Ventura was a phenom for the Royals last season, lighting up radar guns and starring in October at age 23. He was the Opening Day starter this year after signing a long-term contract extension worth at least $23 million. And now he’s headed back to the minors.

Kansas City demoted Ventura to Triple-A after he failed to make it out of the fifth inning Monday against the Pirates. Ventura struggled in back-to-back June starts before going on the disabled list with an irritated nerve in his pitching hand and has allowed nine runs in nine innings since returning.

Overall this season he has a 5.19 ERA in 14 starts compared to a 3.20 ERA in 30 starts last season, although Ventura’s strikeout, walk, and home run rates are all nearly identical to last year. His average fastball, while down slightly, is still one of the hardest in baseball at 96 miles per hour.

He’ll be replaced in the rotation by left-hander Jason Vargas, who returns from the disabled list. Suffice it to say that the Royals–with the best record in the American League–are in the market for rotation help at the trade deadline.

UPDATE: Saturday’s game features a Yordano Ventura bobblehead giveaway. So that’s awkward.