KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The Royals are skipping right-hander Yordano Ventura's next turn in the rotation to rest his sore back, clearing the way for Liam Hendriks to make his first start for the club since arriving in a trade from Toronto.
Royals manager Ned Yost said before Tuesday night's series opener against Minnesota that Ventura experienced some pain in his lower back after his last start Friday night in Texas. An MRI exam showed some fluid consistent with inflammation but no damage.
"It's gotten better over the last couple of days but it's something we don't really want to push," Yost said. "Could he pitch tomorrow? Yeah, probably. Maybe. But as a precaution we think kit's smarter to go ahead and bang him one start and go from there."
Meanwhile, second baseman Omar Infante was held out of the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Twins with shoulder inflammation. Christian Colon was starting in his place.
"Everybody is dealing with something this time of year," Yost said. "My feet hurt, I'm just telling you. I don't know why. Everybody has something."
The emergence of Ventura, who was slated to start Wednesday, has been one of the reasons Kansas City has climbed into first place in the AL Central. The hard-throwing rookie is 10-9 with a 3.40 ERA this season, stabilizing a rotation that has been dominant since the All-Star break.
Ventura has won six of his last eight decisions and, perhaps more importantly, has gone at least six innings in his last six outings. That has not only been a sign that Ventura has grown comfortable pitching at the big league level, it's also helped to rest the Royals' bullpen.
"The younger guys, until they get themselves more established, you guard them a little more than you would a veteran guy, especially when you have someone as good as Ventura," Yost said. "These guys are going to be the cornerstones of our pitching rotation for years to come, so you want to make sure you don't do anything too brash."
Hendriks was acquired last month along with backup catcher Eric Kratz from the Blue Jays for infielder Danny Valencia. The Australian was just 1-0 with a 6.08 ERA in three starts for Toronto, but had been pitching well at Triple-A Omaha, going 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA in five starts.
Hendriks spent time with the Twins last season but was designated for assignment in December, kicking off a crazy few months. He was claimed by the Cubs and the designated again, only to be claimed by Baltimore. He was designated for assignment a third time in February, finally catching on with the Blue Jays, where he had spent the majority of this season.
Now, he'll get to start against the team that brought him into the league.
"It'll be interesting. It could be really good or really bad," Hendriks said, "but I'm just going to go out there and pitch the same way I have. The way I'm pitching this year isn't the same way I was pitching last year, so hopefully I can catch them a little bit off guard."