The Kansas City Royals formally introduced pitcher Jason Hammel at a news conference on Wednesday, and the 34-year-old acknowledged he wouldn’t have been in this situation had Yordano Ventura not died in a car accident last month.
“I feel like I need to express my condolences to Royals Nation and the Ventura family,” Hammel said, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). “I truly feel if that unfortunate passing doesn’t happen, you’re not talking to me.”
General manager Dayton Moore echoed that sentiment.
“Obviously we weren’t in the starting pitcher market, although we’d been an admirer of Jason for a while and knew he was an option out there,” he said, per the AP. “We were very surprised, truthfully, that he remained on the market as well. Once we got over the shock of Yordano, you have to move forward.”
Ventura, 25, died on Jan. 22 following a car accident in his native Dominican Republic, according to the New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner.
The 2017 season will represent Hammel‘s 12th in the majors after he signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Royals, according to the AP.
Last year, Hammel won a career-high 15 games and posted a 3.83 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 144 strikeouts and 53 walks with the Chicago Cubs.
“We have a baseball season to play, a team we’re responsible for, players we’re committed to and a fanbase we’re responsible for as well,” Moore said, per the AP. “So our scouts to a man, our entire front office, said, ‘There’s one guy out there that really makes us better.'”