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TEX@KC: Ventura dominant, K's six in impressive start

DETROIT -- Anibal Sanchez has a few things on Royals rookie Yordano Ventura. Such as age, 30 to 22; experience, 174 big league games to three, and victories, 62 to, well, none.

So as Sanchez begins his ninth Major League season and his third with the Tigers, he might be expected to hold a big advantage. Except that Sanchez hasn't faced Major League pitching in a while -- since March 12.

Sanchez was scratched from his St. Patrick's Day start with posterior shoulder inflammation, missed a week for a cortisone injection, had a start rained out, pitched in a Minor League camp game, then had his exhibition start against the Nationals rained out last Saturday. His prep work consisted of about 50 pitches against Tigers hitters in a simulated game on Sunday at Comerica Park.

Sanchez will try to overcome all that on Thursday as he strives to give the Tigers a three-game sweep after two walk-off wins over the Royals. Ventura will venture to send the Royals home to the home opener on Friday with a victory.

The net effect on Sanchez is that while he feels ready, he hasn't been stretched out beyond 75 pitches.

"We'll have to keep our eye on him as the pitch count gets higher," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said on Wednesday, "especially if the weather's as bad as the forecast."

That forecast includes low temperatures and rain.

Ventura is a flame-throwing phenom who is still learning things about pitching and that includes fundamentals like warming up. Pitching coach Dave Eiland found that the kid was in too big of a hurry.

"He told me that when I warmed up for the game, I was doing it too quick," Ventura said. "So [Bruce] Chen and [James] Shields told me to go easier in the bullpen and then throw harder as I got closer to the game. And right now it's going good."

Veterans Chen and Shields have been giving Eiland a helping hand with Ventura.

"I've been using Bruce and Shields as my allies. They help me drive my point home. It's not so much holding back, it's how you're warming up," Eiland said. "When you go down to the bullpen and you start warming up, you're not letting it fly the first pitch, you're easing into it. You're getting your rhythm, you're getting your tempo, you're finally starting to speed up and maybe your last 10 or 12 pitches you're letting 'em go."

Ventura, a September callup last year and in Spring Training this year, has been popping eyes and radar readings with 100- and even 102-mph fastballs. But that's not his only attribute.

"He throws three pitches that on any given day he can command for strikes. He's got a triple-digit fastball, a very good breaking ball and a very nice changeup," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a kid that's very smart for a young age. The game doesn't speed up for him for a young guy. His composure is quite impressive and he has a lot of confidence in his abilities."

So does Sanchez, who spent a lot of Spring Training doing early-morning workouts to get in shape, including a ton of running. From a cardiovascular standpoint, he should be fine.

"The most impressive thing [about him] is he told me how much weight he's lost since he was with the Marlins," Ausmus said. "I mean, this is a guy who really watches his diet and works out hard, and it's paying dividends in spades on the field."

Royals, Tigers: An old school connection
There's an added Show-Me State touch when the Royals and Tigers tangle.

Max Scherzer, the American League Cy Young Award winner who threw eight shutout innings for the Tigers on Wednesday; Ian Kinsler, Detroit's second baseman who homered and then won the game with a walk-off single, and Aaron Crow, who relieved for the Royals in Monday's opener, are all products of the University of Missouri baseball program.

Scherzer and Crow were Mizzou Tigers teammates in 2006.

"He was a junior when I was a freshman but, since he was a few years older than me, we were friends but we weren't real close," Crow said. "When we play 'em, I talk to him, but he's not one of my best friends or anything like that."

Kinsler was at the school much earlier, in 2000. By Crow's count, there's just one other Mizzou player in the Majors now: pitcher Kyle Gibson with the Twins.

Worth noting
• Outfielder Carlos Peguero cleared waivers and the Royals assigned him to Triple-A Omaha. He was designated for assignment on March 25.

• Left-hander Chris Dwyer gets the opening day nod as the Royals' Triple-A Omaha club opens its season on Thursday against Nashville. Following him in the pitching rotation will be Aaron Brooks, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Brett Tomko.

• The two triples on Opening Day marked the sixth time in Tigers history that the club had two or more in the first game. It hadn't happened since April 9, 1981, against the Blue Jays.

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