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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Like Royals and Yordano Ventura, Mets might want to take wraps off young pitchers

Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals

Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants during Game 2 of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium on Oct. 22, 2014 in Kansas City, Mo. Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - To the majority of people who closely examine such things, and that includes plenty in front offices around the majors, Yordano Ventura took the mound for Wednesday night's Game 2 of the World Series on borrowed time.

Or with the clock ticking loudly.

The Royals, however, choose not to hear it.

By more cautious estimates, Ventura is brushing up against the danger zone for young pitchers right now after logging 183 innings during the regular season, a 33-inning jump from the previous year.

According to the standard protocol, that should be the shut-off point for a 23-year-old, especially a slightly built one with a 100-mph arm like Ventura. But for the Royals, it's full speed ahead, which represents both a difference in philosophy as well as the October reality of the situation.

This is the World Series. And unless you're the Giants or Cardinals, getting there is not something that happens very often. For the Royals, it's been 29 years. Honestly, they can't afford to sweat a few innings. Not now.

"Everybody has a small window of opportunity," Royals general manager Dayton Moore told Newsday before Game 2. "All of our success is tied to that opportunity."

It was a blunt admission by Moore, who was talking specifically about how Ventura's development has been handled this season. But don't confuse being candid with sounding cavalier about Ventura's future.

Moore just doesn't see the need to automatically lump Ventura in with every other young pitcher who gets fenced in by innings limits and pitch counts. As long as Ventura feels strong, and his health is closely monitored, the Royals believe he can be used in a responsible manner more tailored to him as an individual than the one-size-fits-all research.

"No two players are the same," Moore said. "The only commonalities in this game are 60 feet, six inches, the plate is 17 inches, the ball is the same weight, ninety feet [between the bases]. Those are the commonalities. But every pitcher is different. They all prepare differently. They all have different mindsets. Their arms work perhaps differently. They have different arsenals."

For an example closer to home, we're sure you recall how the Mets handled Jacob deGrom's Rookie of the Year audition. As soon as deGrom went over 178 innings, a mark he reached on Sept. 21, the Mets pulled the plug without discussion.

For them, it was an easy decision. The Mets were not in contention. But would they have been just as stubborn with deGrom if they were in the Royals' cleats and fighting for a playoff spot?

That's when a club's idealistic notions are put to the test. The Nationals didn't bend with Stephen Strasburg in 2012, when he was shut down on Sept. 7 -- and unavailable for the playoffs -- after throwing 1591/3 innings.

In Strasburg's case, he was returning from Tommy John surgery, so it had more to do with his rehab schedule than the Nats being overprotective. But that wasn't much of a consolation when the NL East champs were bounced from the playoffs by the 88-win Cardinals in the Division Series.

The Mets, with their stable of still-maturing pitchers, will be faced with a number of these scenarios next season. Matt Harvey is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard, who finished at 133 innings this year at Las Vegas, presumably will join the rotation at some point with a 160-plus ceiling in 2015. If deGrom stays healthy, it will be interesting to see if he can crack 200.

Factor in the Mets' plan to be a playoff team, and there could be some hard decisions in Sandy Alderson's future. The Royals have no regrets with how they've handled Ventura, even with the shoulder tightness that cut short his Game 2 start in the ALCS.

"We didn't want to put limitations on him -- at all," Moore said. "He's a terrific athlete. I'm never going to say you're completely comfortable. I mean, the more innings, the more bullets a guy throws, you become a little more cautious.

"But at the end of the day, you trust the pitching coach, the manager, the medical team and the plate. If the information I receive from those areas is consistent, then let's go play."

Ventura was back on the mound Wednesday night. For how long was the question.


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