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.

Gabe Kapler chooses not to bench Jean Segura for lack of effort

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The Phillies are in a tailspin. The club lost its perch atop the NL East, losing 12 of its last 18 games dating back to May 30. They enter Thursday night’s action four games behind the now-first-place Braves. The reasons for the slide are myriad, including a rash of injuries, but the players have also simply not played well. Understandably, fans are upset.

It didn’t help when, for the second time in three weeks, shortstop Jean Segura didn’t run hard on a batted ball. On June 3, Segura didn’t run on an infield pop-up that eventually resulted in a season-ending injury to Andrew McCutchen. On Wednesday during the second game of a doubleheader, Segura weakly hit a Max Scherzer pitch to shallow left-center that wasn’t caught. Because he was watching the ball rather than running hard, he had to hold up after a wide turn around first base.

To the surprise of many, Segura wasn’t pulled from the game despite the lack of effort. To the even further surprise of many, manager Gabe Kapler included Segura in Thursday’s lineup against the Nationals, which has otherwise been thoroughly reshuffled. Per Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kapler said, “Jean is one of our eight best players. I don’t think taking one of our eight best players and our shortstop out of our lineup is what’s best for the Philadelphia Phillies.”

Kapler said he had a long talk with Segura. “I told him that we’re going to address not just him but other players in the clubhouse and we’re going to talk about the highest level of effort and talk about how we can’t win every night but we can win the game of give-a-[hoot] and be undefeated in that category. Then we can protect the Phillies by putting the best lineup together on a nightly basis and not think about making ourselves feel better by sending a message.”

Kapler hit the nail on the head with that last line. Benching Segura only makes fans and pundits feel better by punishing someone for a perceived transgression. But does it actually teach anything, and is it actually beneficial to the team? Maybe to the former, and no to the latter. Matt Winkelman of Baseball Prospectus brought up a great point on Twitter, writing, “The idea that punishment is the only way to solve a problem or change behavior is such a narrow minded idea.” People learn best in different ways. Some might respond well to punishment. Others may just need a good talking-to. It’s a case-by-case thing. Kapler is right to apply nuance to the situation.

So many of baseball’s long-held beliefs have fallen to the wayside in recent years. The idea that a player must always be punished for a lack of effort will hopefully be the next one to be taken out to the dumpster.