They grow up so quickly.
Yordano Ventura signed with Kansas City as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, landing a $28,000 bonus. Then, his fastball was clocked in the mid-80s; now, it ranges from 94-97 mph and has reached as high as 102. Add his blossoming control, and some experts project the right-hander to arrive in the big leagues as soon as this year.
"I don't think ahead of time," Ventura said through interpreter and fellow pitcher Santiago Garrido. "I always work hard, so I don't really worry about it that much. I just want to work hard and keep getting better."
Ventura, who turns 22 next month and is listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, went 3-5 with a 3.30 ERA for Class A Advanced Wilmington last year and earned an invitation to join the World Team at the 2012 All-Star Futures Game, held in Kansas City.
"It was a good experience to be around young talent just like me, looking forward to seeing the big leagues," Ventura said of the Futures Game, in which he pitched a scoreless inning and threw eight strikes in 11 pitches. "I was so excited to be there."
Ventura also got his first taste of Double-A last season, going 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA with the Naturals. He had to work around some consistency issues as well as a hand injury that sent him to Arizona briefly for rehab.
"Last year I got hurt," he said. "[The promotion] did make me a lot better because there were some good hitters, and I came up this year with the mentality to do much better."
In eight starts this season Ventura is 3-1 with a 1.79 ERA, good for second in the Texas League. Featuring a curveball and changeup along with his fastball, he has struck out 56 while walking 14 in 40 1/2 innings.
"He doesn't have to be prefect," Naturals pitching coach Jim Brower said. "When you can throw 100, you don't have to [throw] at the glove, but you do have to keep the ball down. You do have to mix in offspeed pitches -- so it's an overall pitching experience, and fastball command is No. 1 on the list."
As his control has improved, the only thing about Ventura that seems to worry scouts is his size, which may impact his stamina at the big league level. But don't tell that to Ventura -- given his progress so far, he doesn't feel the need to worry.
"This year is a lot better than it was before," he said. "I feel a lot more confidence. I'm a little bit heavier, and I can throw a lot more strikes."
Hello there: Anthony Bemboom, a catcher who recently joined the Arkansas Travelers from the Class A Midwest League, made himself at home Friday with an eighth-inning RBI single and a rundown that allowed a second run to score as the Travelers completed a comeback from a 5-0 deficit to beat Springfield, 7-6. Travis Witherspoon and Taylor Lindsey homered for Arkansas as the Travelers won their eighth straight, a streak that ended with a loss to Springfield on Saturday.
Rangers North: Texas right-hander Justin Miller and catcher A.J. Pierzynski have both begun rehab assignments with Frisco, and Colby Lewis started for the RoughRiders on Monday. Meanwhile, reliever Arlett Mavare was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock, while outfielder/first baseman Barrett Serrato joined Frisco from extended spring training.
Sams slams: San Antonio's Kalian Sams, a free agent signee from the Netherlands, was batting .350 through his first 12 games since signing with the San Diego Padres. Sams, who played six seasons in the Mariners organization, has seven homers and 18 RBIs, tying him for most in the Double-A in both categories for the month of May.