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TOR@KC: Ventura throws five scoreless vs. Blue Jays

Everybody knows that Yordano Ventura can throw hard, up to 102 mph. Now, we'll find out if he can hit.

Ventura will pitch Monday night's opener at San Diego, the Royals' first invasion of a National League ballpark this season. That means their pitchers will be swinging for the first time.

The Kansas City pitchers have been taking batting practice and manager Ned Yost counts Ventura as one of the best hitters among his throwers. Jeremy Guthrie and James Shields are the other starting pitchers in the series.

"I'm OK, I can hold my own for a pitcher, I guess, but I wouldn't call myself a great hitter. I can definitely put the bat on the ball," Shields said.

"I think Guthrie might be the most improved player for sure. He's got a nice little stance working for him. But we're working hard at it, any chance to give us an extra win and to help us win a ballgame, we're good to go."

The Royals' best hitting pitcher is probably Jason Vargas, who was a standout designated hitter in college and is 16-for-61 (.262) in his Major League at-bats. But Vargas pitched on Sunday.

Perhaps Vargas could be a pinch-hitter?

"If we get in a major bind, yeah," Yost said.

While the Royals have a four-game losing streak going, the Padres snapped a four-game skid on Sunday with a 4-3 victory over the Diamondbacks. Nothing unusual about that tight score.

The combination of strong pitching but a sputtering offense has led to a lot of closely contested games for the Padres. The club has played in 22 games that were decided by two runs or fewer, the most such games in the Majors this season.

Padres pitchers put together a 3.17 ERA in the team's 32 games, which is good for seventh-best in the Majors. The offense, however, has scored a big-league worst 84 runs. Left-hander Eric Stults is starting for the Padres, meaning Yost has to decide if he'll keep Billy Butler's right-handed bat in the lineup at first base or keep left-handed Eric Hosmer there. There's no designated hitter, of course, at NL parks.

Yost indicated previously he's not likely to use Hosmer in the outfield but stay tuned.

Royals: Winless at San Diego
This will be the Royals' third trip to San Diego for Interleague Play and the first two visits have been nice on weather and scenery, but poor on victories. In fact, the Royals are 0-6 so far at Petco Park.

Their last visit in 2011 resulted in three losses with such atypical occurrences as a throwing error by left fielder Alex Gordon and a missed pop fly in the sun by first baseman Hosmer, now Gold Glove fielders.

The first trip to Petco in 2004, also 0-3, is memorable for first baseman Ken Harvey, the cutoff man, getting hit squarely in the back by a throw home from right fielder Matt Stairs. "I was aiming for his head," Stairs said dryly.

Petco and Marlins Park are the only active Major League parks where the Royals have not won a game. They have never played in the new Miami stadium.

Padres: Black has Royals roots
Bud Black, the Padres' manager since 2007, gives a lot of credit to the Royals' organization for his baseball background.

"Even though I was drafted by Seattle, I was raised by the Royals," Black said. "A lot of people in Kansas City influenced my career, both teammates and coaches. As a young player, that's where my foundation was set."

Black pitched seven years for the Royals (1982-88) in 216 games with a 56-57 record. He also pitched for four other clubs but he said:

"My big league education was from the Royals organization. That's where I really started learning what this whole thing is all about. Everything -- pitching and just my knowledge of baseball -- was expanded during that time."

Worth noting
• Yasmani Grandal made his second start at first base on Sunday, a position that Black says Grandal can handle.

"He'll get there," Black said. "There was one play where his footwork was a little funky, but he's fine there."

• Padres catcher Nick Hundley has produced well in a pinch role this season, going 5-for-13, which ties Miami's Reed Johnson for the most pinch hits in the Majors this season. Comments