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KC@HOU: Ventura fans seven, tops 100 for win

One thing the Twins likely will notice when they oppose Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura for the first time is how coolly he approaches adversity. At 22, any pitching prospect -- no matter how talented -- will make mistakes.

"One thing that helps turn a Major League pitcher into a great one is, unfortunately, having to make some mistakes and learn from them, and seeing how they react to them," said Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland.

"Because the league is going to adjust to him, one way or the other, or try to make some adjustments. We'll see how he adjusts back or how he handles it. We feel really good about him. Every pitcher, no matter who they are, has concerns or issues and you have to stay on top of them. But he has a very good aptitude. He's a smart kid, he's able to make adjustments and he's very coachable. It's all there."

Even en route to his first Major League victory last Tuesday at Houston, Ventura made an ill-advised pickoff throw to first base with two out, threw wildly, and let the runner score from third. That came in the first inning, but Ventura cruised through seven for the win.

"The positive out of that is he didn't let it bother him," Eiland said.

When right-hander Phil Hughes takes the mound against the Royals, he'll try for the fourth time to go beyond five innings.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki thinks it's only a matter of time before Hughes becomes more pitch-efficient.

"He throws strikes, but it has just been a matter of him getting a lot of foul balls that drive up the pitch count," Suzuki said. "It's hard to explain. He's not trying to get foul balls, but have guys put it in play softly. There's nothing you can do. He's going to keep coming at you. It's just a matter of guys putting the ball in play and I think that will happen for him as we go forward."

Hughes, who signed a three-year contract on Dec. 5, will be trying for his first victory with the Twins. He was 4-14 for the Yankees last season.

The Royals, who have won five straight, will be trying to pay back the Twins for the three-game sweep they pulled off last weekend at Target Field.

Twins: Making do with a dozen?
The Twins have been carrying 13 pitchers through the early days this season, but manager Ron Gardenhire wants to eventually cut back to a 12-man staff and go with an extra bench player.

"I would love to," Gardenhire said, when asked about going to 12 pitchers. "That's the way you would like to build a club. You should be able to get through with 12 pitchers -- especially when you have so many off-days early and the rainouts. But the way our starters struggled early, we knew we had to protect ourselves a little bit. Once they get going, then I think we'll be able to get back to having four guys off the bench."

The extra bench player would give Gardenhire enhanced flexibility to pinch-hit, pinch-run or make a defensive replacement.

Royals: Magic number is 4
There's this magic number thing about "four" going around with the Royals. If they score four or more runs, they win; if they don't, they lose.

At least it seemed that way last season. When they scored at least four runs, they had a 64-13 record; when they didn't, it was 22-63. Granted, you should win more with four runs than you should with three or fewer, but still that was impressive.

This year, after Saturday's 5-4 win, it's even more dramatic -- 9-0 with four or more runs, 0-7 with three or fewer.

"It's nice, it just shows how good our pitching is," manager Ned Yost said. "Last year our numbers were phenomenal when we scored four runs, too. So that's the goal every day -- get to four and keep it going. But it's a tough game, it's not an easy game and there's nothing cut-and-dried about it."

Worth noting
• Twins first baseman Joe Mauer celebrated his 31st birthday on Saturday.

• Sunday's series finale will be the 10th day game for the Royals of their total 17 games. But it'll be the 14th matinee of the Twins' total 18 games.

• Gardenhire was pleased to see right-hander Jared Burton deliver a clean eighth inning on Friday in a mop-up role. Burton got off to a tough start this season and has a 12.00 ERA.

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