Making his Triple-A debut Thursday, Yordano Ventura wasn't perfect, or even at his best.
What he showed, though, was that when that is the case, he's still pretty tough to touch.
Kansas City's third-ranked prospect impressed despite some command issues in his first start for Triple-A Omaha. Ventura allowed one run on only one hit and four walks with six strikeouts in five innings as the Storm Chasers beat the Oklahoma City RedHawks, 2-1.
"I thought he did very well against a productive team in Oklahoma City, one of the better teams in the league," said Omaha pitching coach Larry Carter. "For his first start, it was very productive."
Carter said although the 21-year-old's control wasn't necessarily what it needs to be, given the four walks he issued, he showed a nice ability to battle through it.
"He had a wild pitch there in the first inning that led to the first run with two outs, and he maintained his composure through that. He had some walks tonight and all I saw from him was just getting the ball back trying to make adjustments," Carter noted. "He got a lot of big outs when he was in situations and very well composed."
Ventura has been moving swiftly through the Kansas City system since the beginning of last season. He posted a 3.30 ERA in just 76 1/3 innings -- striking out 98 and walking 28 -- before he was promoted from Class A Advanced Wilmington to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
He threw 29 1/3 innings for the Naturals last year and 57 2/3 more frames this season before the Royals moved him up again.
The start that MLB.com's No. 54 overall prospect had this year only bolstered Kansas City's confidence in him. He was 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA for Northwest Arkansas,with 74 strikeouts and 20 walks in 27 2/3 frames. His 10.92 strikeouts-per-nine innings mark has made him one of the toughest arms to connect off in the Minors this year.
"I don't think we saw his best tonight, even though he was pretty doggone good," said Carter. "There's a lot more room for improvement. He has a good fastball, anywhere from 94-100 mph and it was averaging 97. He's very graceful with his velocity.
"Had 14 of 20 first-pitch strikes, so I'm sure he'd like to have a few of those walks back. But overall, I thought he threw the ball very well."
Ventura now has a 2.30 ERA in 62 2/3 innings, and his 80 strikeouts give him the sixth-highest total throughout the Minors.
Opposing Ventura on the hill Thursday was No. 15 Astros prospect Asher Wojciechowski. The 24-year-old, another a recent arrival in Triple-A, scattered four hits and a walk with five punchouts over seven shutout innings.
He left in line for the win before Omaha scored two in the bottom of the ninth to emerge walk-off winners.
"It's definitely fun watching a guy throw 100 mph and you go out there and try to match him," Wojciechowski said. "When you have close games like that, every pitch matters so much, so those are the games you wanna pitch in. I was just trying to focus on what I can do by going after hitters, attacking the zone as much as I could and getting quick outs."
Wojciechowski has a 3.23 ERA in seven starts for the RedHawks. Between Oklahoma City and Double-A Corpus Christi, the right-hander has a 2.77 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 20 walks in 65 innings.