Prospect Q&A: Royals Righty Yordano Ventura — MLB.com’s No. 59 Farmhand — on Being Pequeño Pedro, Más
Yordano Ventura sat at home in Samana, his town in the baseball-crazy Dominican Republic, and watched every start made by Pedro Martinez, the countryman gone on to fame and Cy Young awards. So it’s no wonder Ventura, a Royals farmhand and MLB.com’s No. 59 overall prospect (bio, stats here) entering the 2013 season, welcomed the moniker Pequeño Pedro.
Now that Ventura has filled out his 5-foot-11 frame and throws a fastball that hits triple digits on the radar gun, however, he implies that you can alter his nickname to Grande Pedro. Simply Yordano will do fine, too. The way he pitches at age 21, he could be one of the few ballplayers who goes by one name only. That’s what happened with his idol anyway.
I caught up with Ventura on Thursday afternoon. He is in Arizona, on the Major League side of Spring Training, getting ready for his fifth pro season. Here’s what he had to say his native language. (Thanks to the Royals’ multilingual Bruce Chen, one part veteran left-hander one part stand-up comic, for interpreting Ventura’s Spanish.)
On his Spring Training highlights so far: “The quality of the players that I have been facing, and the older, experienced players that I have learned from and been around. I have been watching the older pitchers, [Ervin] Santana and Bruce Chen., and learning from the way they have been pitching.”
On his mindset competing for a spot /ending up at Double-A Northwest Arkansas: “I just want to keep working hard so that when the Royals when give me the opportunity to be in the big leagues, I can a very good job.”
On his two scoreless innings last Sunday: “I was very happy because I got to face some really good hitters, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and that gave me a lot of confidence to keep working hard to keep getting better. When I got on the mound, the first batter I faced was Joey Votto, so I said to myself, ‘God help me.’”
On the development of his pitches in camp: “I feel like my repertoire has been very good. I have been trying to keep the ball down. My breaking ball has been very good, and I’m working on a sinker, which I think is coming along very well.”
On how long he’s been learning the sinker: “I have been throwing the sinker for two months now. Whenever the batter is waiting for a four-seam fastball and throw it, I can get the batter to break his bat, [induce] a ground ball or get him out instead of going all four-seamers.”
On the evolution of his fastball velocity, which has peaked at 102 mph: “When I was in the Dominican, I was throwing high-80s, but when I came to Arizona, I was already throwing 95 [mph]. I have been working very hard, and thankfully, the miles per hour have kept going up and up.”
On mechanical changes increasing his velo: “I gained some weight. What I did was drop down my arm-angle to three-quarters. That helped me get better command of my fastball.”
On his Pequeno Pedro [Martinez] nickname: “It feels good. Every time I went out there, people didn’t think I would do anything because I was smaller, so they called me Little Pedro. Now they call me Grande Pedro. I want to work hard so that I can be like Pedro or better.”
On whether he admired Martinez: “When I was little, the only pitcher I saw [on TV] was Pedro. Every time he pitched, I watched him. I have never seen him or meet him in person.”
On what he would ask Martinez about: “I would try to get the most out of him, sit down with him and try to talk to him about his pitches, his experiences, about pitching, and how to pitch to hitters. I think that would be great to learn.”
On his own mound mentality: “I would consider myself a little bit of a warrior but always have a positive mentality. I’m trying to get the hitter out, but I also like to think that I’m going to get him out.”
On what jersey number he’d like to wear in the Majors: “I want to be 46 because Pedro was 45, and I want to be the first one after Pedro.”