CLEVELAND: Kansas City’s Christian Colon made the most of his first career start Friday, as the Royals young second-base prospect went 3-for-4 with a triple, two doubles and three runs scored.
Colon’s accomplishments were still overshadowed by another highly thought of youngster on the club — Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura. In another case these days where good pitching always seems to trump even the hottest of hitters, the hard-throwing right-hander stole a majority of the attention following the Royals’ 7-1 win.
In limiting the Indians to a ninth-inning Michael Brantley leadoff home run as he tried — albeit unsuccessfully — to record a complete-game shutout, Ventura was still good enough to get the win and notch his 11th quality start of the season. That ranks as the second-most quality starts in the big leagues among all rookie starters, second only to the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (16).
“He’s got a very good arm,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ventura. “[He throws hard], he has a good change-up and you can’t run on him. There’s a lot to like about him.”
Ventura’s 3.07 ERA is also only second to Tanaka’s 2.27 ERA, and his 80 strikeouts are the most by a Royals rookie hurler prior to the All-Star break since Steve Busby racked up 106 first-half K’s in 1973.
“That group [of young Royals hitters] are maturing at the same time and they’re becoming a very good team,” Francona said. “But it’s not surprising that they started to become a good team once they added pitching.”
TAKING A BREATHER — Starting catcher Yan Gomes was able to take a step back and relax Saturday with a rare day off.
“We’ve had a few days off as a team, but he really has caught just about every game,” Francona said. “And with a day game [Sunday] … it seemed to make sense. Then we have four night games after that and we just don’t want to overwhelm him. He’s in good shape and has worked hard. But we just want to pick our spots. There’s a lot of baseball left in the season and we need him.”
VERSATILITY NEVER HURTS — Nick Swisher started the season as the Indians’ everyday first baseman. But less than halfway through the 2014 campaign, he’d already been relegated mainly to designated hitter duty with the veteran continuing to struggle to find his footing offensively (.194 batting average) and defensively (eight errors).
That’s one reason why Swisher has been taking extra fielding practice the past week, including taking some balls in the outfield.
“We’re trying to take advantage [of the extra work] while he’s DHing,” Francona said. “It’s nice to have [that versatility]. You never know what’s going to happen. If something were to happen, I’d hate to have him out there without having done any throws or taken some fly balls.”
ON DISPLAY — The authenticated bat, cleats, jersey and a ball from Lonnie Chisenhall’s career night June 9 in Texas were on display Saturday at Progressive Field’s Heritage Park. Soon the Indians will ship the bat that the third baseman used in his five-hit, three-home run, nine-RBI game to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Sometimes you have to give up a piece that maybe means something to you to give it to the game,” Chisenhall, 25, told reporters a day after MLB’s shrine requested Chisenhall’s lumber. “I’ve been to the hall of fame once in the minor leagues. Walking through there, just to have any piece of equipment that I own or used in there, is a huge honor.”
ODDS & ENDS — Including this current three-game series against the Royals, 16 of the Indians’ next 20 games through July 27 are against American League Central opponents. … Saturday’s game was the only one of the Tribe’s 162 that isn’t scheduled to be televised this season. … Brianna Alomar, the 13-year-old daughter of first-base coach Sandy Alomar, sung the national anthem before the game.
— Stephanie Storm