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Royals pitcher Ventura, 25, dies in car crash

The Kansas City Royals announced on Sunday, Jan. 22 that Yordano Ventura, a promising right-handed pitcher and a key part of the organization’s recent success, was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic.

Reports from the Dominican Republic said the crash happened on a highway in Rancho Arriba, a town in the province of San Jose de Ocoa, according to Royals correspondent Jeffrey Flanagan. The circumstances surrounding the wreck are still unclear, but Ventura was reportedly driving through a mountainous area covered by dense fog. Although speed did not appear to be a factor in the crash, it was evident based on pictures of the incident that Ventura was not wearing a seatbelt. A toxicology report will not be available for another two weeks.

There is also speculation that Ventura was robbed at some point after the accident and prior to his death, but those reports have yet to be confirmed.

The funeral services are expected to take place in Ventura’s hometown of Las Terrenas, according to Flanagan.

“Our prayers right now are with Yordano’s family as we mourn this young man’s passing,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. “He was so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberance and always brought a smile to everyone he interacted with. We will get through this as an organization, but right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano.”

“We’ve been group-texting all morning, trying to make sense of it,” Royals left fielder Alex Gordon told by phone shortly after learning of the incident. “He was a great kid with a big heart. It’s just a very hard day for all of us. We lost a brother.”

Ventura, whom the Royals signed as an international free agent in 2008 when he was just 17, likely had not reached his full potential as a big league pitcher. He debuted in the Majors in late 2013 before his first full season in 2014, a stellar rookie campaign in which he went 14-10 alongside a 3.20 ERA. Ventura was a key piece of Kansas City’s pennant chase in 2014 and played a similar role in 2015, when the Royals won their first World Series since 1985, going 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA. He finishes his career with a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA, and 470 strikeouts in 547 2/3 innings.

Ventura was best known for his electric fastball, which averaged 96 MPH, among the tops in the Majors. He also featured a hard curveball in the low-to-mid 80s; this fastball-curveball combination often drew raving comparisons to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.

Several players who reside in the Dominican Republic, which has produced some of the game’s top players in recent years, have suffered similar fates over the past few seasons. The most notable of these is Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic shortly after his call to the big leagues in late 2014. Jose Rosario and Ramon Ramirez, who were minor league players for the Astros and Orioles, respectively, both died in separate motorcycle wrecks earlier this month.  

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