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SEA@OAK: Young pitches six strong innings

If opposing hitters are learning anything about Royals rookie Yordano Ventura, it's that he has much more than a fastball clocked at 102.9 mph earlier this season.

In his last start, Ventura (2-1, 2.00 ERA) had 10 strikeouts in just six innings against San Diego. His main weapon?

"Every pitch -- he used fastball, curveball and changeup, all three pitches for strikeouts," catcher Salvador Perez said.

The six-foot, 180-pound right-hander enters Saturday's game in Seattle tied with Anaheim's Garrett Richards for the highest fastball velocity (96 mph) in Major League Baseball, according to Fangraphs.com

Last time out, he didn't issue a walk, though he did throw 101 pitches and allow a three-run homer in the sixth when he hung a curveball. That ended a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings.

"He's getting strikeouts because he's got a good fastball. He's also got three above-average pitches with his changeup and curveball," manager Ned Yost said. "So all three pitches set up all three pitches. You can't sit one pitch with him."

His curveball has been especially effective of late.

"They're sitting on a 99 mph fastball, and all of a sudden, boom, whoa, it freezes you," Yost said.

Mariners starter Chris Young's strategy hasn't been to freeze hitters so much as to confuse them. The 34-year-old righty is 2-0 with a 3.03 ERA. Signed to a one-year deal late in Spring Training, Young made one successful appearance as a long reliever early in the year before injuries depleted Seattle's rotation and forced him into a starting role.

His fastball is in the mid-80s and he consistently works up in the strike zone. He didn't pitch in the Major Leagues last season because he was recovering from surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome following two other operations to his throwing shoulder. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Yet he's won his last two starts and the praise of pitching coach Rick Waits for his intensity and mentoring Seattle's young rotation.

"He's just been great for our team because we have young pitchers, and he's available there," Waits said. "I saw him standing up on the railing with one of our other pitchers talking. That's great to see as a pitching coach because they only listen to me so [much]."

Mariners: Ackley back in left
After opting the past two games to sit left-handed-hitting Dustin Ackley against left-handers Drew Pomeranz of the A's and Danny Duffy of the Royals, manager Lloyd McClendon had Ackley back in the lineup hitting seventh and playing left field Friday night against Royals lefty Jason Vargas.

From the outset of Spring Training, McClendon has maintained that Ackley wouldn't be in a platoon role. Yet, utility outfielder Cole Gillespie, a right-handed hitter, was in the lineup in his stead when Seattle faced Pomeranz and Duffy.

McClendon said Friday he doesn't plan to scale back Ackley's playing time. He simply wanted to see what he had in Gillespie, whom the club recalled from Triple-A Tacoma in late April. In eight games, the 29-year-old Oregon State product has yet to make an impression, going 3-for-18 (.167 batting average) with a double and no RBIs.

Ackley, meanwhile, hit just .222 (6-for-27) while the club reeled off wins in 11 of its last 14 games before Friday's 6-1 loss.

"[Ackley's] our left fielder," McClendon said. "He's gonna play. I think it was a product of trying to get [Gillespie] out there more than getting [Ackley] back out there. He's our guy and he's going to play against left-handers as well.

Royals: A little short in the pen
With the departure of relief pitcher Michael Mariot and the arrival of second baseman Johnny Giavotella on Friday, the Royals' bullpen went from seven pitchers to six.

Second baseman Omar Infante isn't playing because of back pain but the hope is that he can return by next Tuesday after missing just five games.

Duffy is being shuffled back to the bullpen, at least temporarily, but he started and went six-plus innings Thursday night so he's not likely to be available for relief duty until Tuesday.

So the Royals will be hoping for lengthy outings by their starters the next few days to avoid putting wear and tear on the pen.

Worth noting
• Royals coach Rusty Kuntz has returned to the first-base coaching box after missing two weeks because of a left wrist fracture. Mike Jirschele had been filling in for Kuntz at first base. Kuntz, however, continued his outfield and baserunning coaching duties despite the cast on his arm.

• Yost reached the 300-victory mark as Royals skipper Wednesday in San Diego. He's 301-353 since taking over May 13, 2010.

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