This isn't Yordano Ventura's first go-around in the Texas League. If he keeps pitching like he has in his first two starts this season, it could be his last.
The Royals' No. 3 prospect allowed three hits and struck out seven over five shutout innings Saturday night as the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals beat the Midland RockHounds, 4-1, at Citibank Ballpark.
Ventura (1-0) walked two batters and faced four over the minimum, throwing 55 of 88 pitches for strikes.
"I felt good," Ventura said through pitcher Santiago Garrido, who served as a translator. "I was throwing my fastball for strikes and my off-speed, that was big for me. I was trying to be under control with my fastball and not turn it over."
The 21-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic ended his evening by striking out Chad Oberacker in a nine-pitch at-bat, stranding runners on first and second.
"I was trying to get him out, I wasn't trying to strike him out," Ventura said. "I was trying to get him out with my best pitch, my fastball."
Ventura spent a little time at Double-A in 2012, going 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA in six starts. He's off to a better start this year, yielding two runs on eight hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts over 10 innings. While a strong first half could bring an end to his Texas League tenure, that's not on Ventura's mind.
"I'm trying to be good on the mound everywhere, it doesn't matter where I am this year," he said. "It doesn't matter where I end up this year, I'm just going to do the best I can."
Compared to Pedro Martinez by some because of his stature (5-foot-11) and his fastball, Ventura knows he must focus on his changeup and curveball.
"I'm trying to work more with my off-speed. I can learn something new," he said. "I'm trying to work on my off-speed because I think it's going to make me a lot better."
Entering the game, Midland had scored a league-leading 45 runs, 10 more than San Antonio. The RockHounds managed only three singles against Ventura and did not get a runner to second base until the fifth inning, when Juan Graterol walked, stole second, took third on a throwing error and scored on Alex McClure's sacrifice fly.
Brooks Pounders took over for Ventura and allowed a run while scattering six hits over three innings. Nick Rogers worked around a hit in a scoreless ninth for his first save.
Angel Franco went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and Matt Fields reached base twice and scored a run for the Naturals.