World team manager Tino Martinez isn’t afraid to let his runners take off, that’s for sure. The World had another basestealer thrown out in the fourth, making the team 1-for-4 on steal attempts through four innings.
Pablo Sandoval opened the inning by walking on four pitches from Cardinals righthander Jess Todd. Luke Hughes then worked a full count in a seven-pitch at-bat, but he struck out swinging on an 84 mph slider, and Sandoval–not a player known for his speed–was thrown out at second in a strike-em-out/throw-em-out double play. Scott Campbell grounded out to short to end the inning.
Todd looked like he could roll out of bed and throw 89 mph fastballs, as he did it with metronomic consistency in the inning. He had three pitches that came in at 89, but otherwise it was 89 every time. He threw four sliders against the three batters he faced, in the 82-84 mph range.
Pitching is dominating at this point in the game, which usually is the case in the Futures Game.
The U.S. has yet to muster up much offense, as Indians righthander Hector Rondon set down the Americans in order.
Rondon, who sat at 93 mph fastball and topped out once at 94 mph, showed a clean, loose arm with his explosive fastball. Rondon, who is still just 20 years old with high Class A Kinston, retired Phillies catcher Lou Marson on seven pitches, inducing a groundout to second base on a fastball.
Rondon complemented his fastball with a 79-82 mph slider. From where Will and I are seated, it’s hard to get a feel for the movement on the pitch, but from up here (and judging from the velocity), the fastball looks like his best pitch. He threw one slider to Phillies shortstop Jason Donald for a ball, then attacked him with three straight mid-90s fastballs before sawing his bat in half for the weak groundout to the pitcher.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (playing left field tonight in deference to Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler), battled Rondon for eight pitches before getting caught out front on a 79 mph slider for a routine fly out to left.
Athletics lefthander Brett Anderson gave up a couple of hits, but he showcased a strong pickoff move by cutting down both baserunners as they tried to steal second.
Anderson started off the inning by breaking the bat of Ivan DeJesus with a 93 mph fastball, but DeJesus then turned around another 93 mph fastball and drove it deep to center. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen made a nice play to run the ball down, however, saving extra bases.
Elvis Andrus then drew a four-pitch walk, but in his second basestealing attempt of the game he was fooled by Anderson and cut down 1-3-6. Wilkin Ramirez was up next and hit a single off Anderson, but he too was picked off as he was trying to steal second and was thrown out 1-3-6 as Pablo Sandoval was at bat.
Anderson threw almost all fastballs and was consistently in the 92-93 range, peaking at 95 mph. The only batter who saw more than one breaking ball was Sandoval, who got started off with two sliders at 82 and 84 mph.
Astros lefthander Polin Trinidad faced two of the top 25 prospects on Baseball America’s midseason prospect list, and didn’t have problems with either of them.
After striking out Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz on three pitches (swinging at a 79 mph curve for strike three), Trinidad engaged in a six-pitch battle with
Brewers Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta. Trinidad attacked LaPorta with a high-80s fastball and a low-80s changeup, finally getting LaPorta to ground out to the left side of the infield, though a misplay led to LaPorta getting on first base.
Maybe it’s just ESPN constantly beating us all senseless with Brett Favre coverage this summer that’s getting to me thinking about seeing how weird it is to see a player wearing a new uniform, but it really is odd seeing Matt LaPorta wearing an Indians cap. And this guy isn’t even a big leaguer yet. Heck, this guy has only made his professional debut on July 30, so he doesn’t even have a year of minor league experience. But it’s still odd, and there were about 20 reporters who really wanted to know what it was like to be wearing that Indians cap.
Trinidad got out of the inning on the next batter against Rockies center Fielder Dexter Fowler, who grounded into the 5-4-3 double play.
Athletics righthander Trevor Cahill looked impressive in his inning for the United States. Using a fastball in the low 90s and a breaking ball in the low 80s, he gave up just a hit to center fielder Fernando Martinez before striking out catcher Welington Castillo and right fielder Gorkys Hernandez. DH Scott Campbell opened the inning with a fly out to left field.
Cahill was consistently in the 90-92 mph range, peaking at 94, and overmatched every hitter except Martinez.
Phillies righthander Carlos Carrasco threw more balls (11) than strikes (eight), but escaped from the inning allowing only one baserunner and no runs.
Carrasco worked with a fastball that ranged from 90-94 mph, working mostly up in the zone. He retired the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen on four straight fastballs, then struck out Athletics second baseman Cliff Pennington on five pitches, finishing him off with a changeup. Carrasco’s changeup ranged from 83-85 mph today.
After talking Brewers third baseman Mat Gamel on four straight pitches and getting behind Diamondbacks Jamie D’Antona 2-0, Carrasco settled down and threw four fastballs to D’Antona, getting him to swing and miss at three of them up in the zone or up and out of the zone, finishing him off with a 94 mph heater.
The World team converted one hit into an unearned run to open the game with a quick 1-0 lead.
Second baseman Ivan DeJesus opened the game with a single off lefthander Clayton Richard. He was erased when shortstop Elvis Andrus hit into a fielder’s choice, but an errant throw on the attempted double play by U.S. shortstop Jason Donald allowed Andrus to reach second. Andrus then stole third, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez walked, and Andrus scored when catcher Pablo Sandoval hit into a fielder’s choice (on a nice play by Donald to save a base hit). Third baseman Luke Hughes flied out to end the inning.
Richard worked mostly off his fastball against the World team, peaking at 91 mph but consistently pitching in the 87-90 range. He also threw a few changeups in an inning that was sloppy but did not see him get hit hard.
Don’t forget that the players on the U.S. team today are also showcasing themselves for possible inclusion on Team USA’s Olympic squad. That team will be announced on Wednesday, and the 25 players in today’s game are among the 60 players on a provisional roster that the final 24-man Olympic roster will be picked from.
USA Baseball chief executive Paul Seiler was behind the cage for much of batting practice, as was MLB executive Bob Watson, who is also part of the selection process. And of course the entire Olympic field staff is leading the U.S. Futures team.
Seiler said USA Baseball is getting close to a final roster but still has some decisions to make, and having 25 of his candidates in one place definitely helps the process.
"It’s good to see these players, and confirm some things and change our minds on some others," Seiler said. "It’s incredibly useful."
The ceremonies have started and the players are being introduced. You won’t be surprised to find out that the Yankees players and coaches in the game have been roundly cheered, or that the long Red Sox representative, outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, has been roundly booed. Mets players also got warm receptions.
It’s a bit odd to hear the Yankee PA announcer intoning "Midland Rockhounds" and "Montgomery Biscuits" the same way he might introduce the Yankees starting lineup as well.
From Manuel, down below:
"For whatever reason, I thought the Futures Game in Yankee Stadium might be the event’s coming of age, but so far, with the game about seven minutes from starting, the stands are sparse. MLB officials were commenting that security around the park is very tight, perhaps stifling some walk-up attendees, but it will be a disappointment if the Futures Game continues to be just a niche part of the All-Star Weekend and doesn’t evolve into a bigger deal now that it is in its 10th season. The fans here include some Mets fans who gave Fernando Martinez, the organization’s top prospect, a nice ovation when he was introduced, but former Mets manager Davey Johnson, skipper of Team USA, got more recognition. Same for former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, managing the World team."
I agree with John that it’s surprising we don’t have more people in the stands right now, but it’s a pretty early start and Yankee Stadium is cavernous, so I think it will look better as the day goes on. Though we purists find it hard to believe, a lot of people arrive late for the Futures Game and care more about the celebrity softball game to follow.
The World and U.S. teams have finished batting practice, and one of the most impressive performances came from the Twins’ Luke Hughes.
Hughes generated tremendous loft in his swing, showing impressive power from an unimposing frame at six-feet, 190 pounds. Hughes’ teammateon the World team, Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez, also showed off his raw ability in BP with a smooth stroke, lacing line drives to all fields, sending a few balls over the fences, including one that hit off the second deck in right field.
Reds third baseman Juan Francisco looked choppy at times, but had as much raw power as anyone, hitting multiple balls into the third deck in right field, though not all of them stayed fair.
Yankees catcher Jesus Montero put on a spectacle a few weeks ago at the South Atlantic League All-Star game, blasting home run after home run into right center field with the friendly breeze at Greensboro. His first few reps in the cage started slow, but Montero hit three out of the park in one of his final BP reps, something the Yankees certainly hope he does more of in this stadium in the future.
I’m situated in the World Dugout today, not a bad place to be for a first visit to Yankee Stadium. The World team dugout sounds livelier than the U.S. dugout has the last couple of years when I’ve worked there for XM Radio, as I am today.
Pablo Sandoval and Elvis Andrus are cutting up inthe dugout trying to get the attention of the young women who are to ESPN Deportes what Erin Andrews is to American ESPN viewers.
We are here at Yankee Stadium, where batting practice is over, the World team is taking infield and we’re only a few short hours from the celebrity softball game!
But seriously, first pitch of the Futures Game is about an hour away and Ben Badler and I are here in the press box to bring you all the action. John Manuel will be in the World team dugout, reporting on the goings-on there for XM Radio, so we hope to have a few dispatches from his as well.
Here are your starting lineups for today:
|Scott Campbell||DH||Blue Jays|
Starting pitcher for the World will be Phillies righthander Carlos Carrasco, who is making his third appearance in the Futures Game.
Starting pitcher for the U.S. will be White Sox lefthander Clayton Richard.
Like the United States team, the World roster for the Futures Game also went through several changes from the time it was announced a couple of weeks ago.
The first change came almost before the rosters were ever announced, with Max Ramirez making an extended stay in the major leagues with the Rangers. He has been replaced with catcher Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, who opened the season with high Class A San Jose but was promoted to Double-A Connecticut in June. He’s batting a combined .342/.392/.566 between the two stops with 14 home runs.
More recently, the Yankees got another participant in the game when the Diamondbacks promoted Emilio Bonifacio to the big leagues, knocking him out of the Futures Game. Shorstop Ramiro Pena will take his place. Pena, 23, is batting .273/.337/.370 for Double-A Trenton.
On the pitching staff, the Cardinals called up Jaime Garcia just days before the game, so he was replaced by righthander Fernando Salas, a fellow Cardinals farmhand. Salas has been the closer at Double-A Springfield this season and has 15 saves in 39 appearances, with a 3.62 ERA.
In addition, because of a sore arm righthander Phillippe Aumont will not be able to pitch in the Futures Game. He will still attend the event but won’t play. The sore arm will also keep Aumont from pitching for Team Canada in the Olympics.
As in every year, the rosters that are selected for the Futures Game never end up representing the actual roster of players who make it to the game. This year is no exception, as major league promotions and injuries have taken their usual toll.
For example, did you know Cardinals outfield prospect Colby Rasmus was supposed to be in the game on the United States team? Well, that’s because he was selected to replace Twins outfielder Denard Span, who was called up to the big leagues, but then had to be replaced himself because of a hip injury. So he was only a phantom member of the team for a week or so.
Rasmus’ injury means Jamie D’Antona of the Diamondbacks will take his place. D’Antona’s selection reflects one of the different aspects of this year’s game, with USA Baseball selecting the United States roster as a step in its process of picking the final roster for the Beijing Olympics in August. The players it has picked for the Futures Games represent the younger members of the 60 or so players (non-major leaguers on 40-man rosters) who represent the Olympic selection pool.
So D’Antona, 26, will become one of the oldest players in Futures Game history in his sixth season in the Diamondbacks organization. He’s batting .376/.416/.611 at Triple-A Tucscon, and while he’s not the prototype for the Futures Game, he does seems like a good Olympic candidate. He can play either infield corner and pitch in at catcher once in a while, as he has this season, and has been a consistent producer with the bat.
With D’Antona’s selection, new Indians prospect Matt LaPorta is more appropriately listed in the outfield (he had been originally designated as an infielder).
In other changes to the U.S. roster, Rangers infielder Chris Davis looks like he’ll be in the big leagues for a while, so he was replaced by Indians third baseman Wes Hodges, who was batting .315/.386/.475 at Double-A Akron. The only change to the pitching staff came when Giants righthander Kevin Jepsen had to drop out at the last minute. He will not be replaced.
The Futures Game will have a twist this year, as Major League Baseball announced today that the 2008 Team USA Olympic trial team will form the USA roster.
"This year’s event will be particularly special as our fans will have the opportunity to get a first look at many of the players who will make up Team USA and represent our country in August at the Beijing Olympics," MLB’s President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy said in a press release.
The USA roster will be managed by Davey Johnson, who will also manage the Olympic team. Tino Martinez will manage the World team. Players on the USA roster for the Futures Game will not necessarily play on the team that USA Baseball sends to the Olympics, but it will draw from that pool of players to help form the Olympic team. The final roster for the Olympic team is expected to be announced shortly after the Futures Game.
“It’s going to be a team of exceptional young players who are part of a larger pool of athletes that we are looking at very closely for the Olympic baseball team," said Paul Seiler, the executive director and CEO of USA Baseball. "Watching them compete in the Futures Game is part of the overall scouting process that will help us better identify which players give us the best shot at gold in Beijing.”
The other change to the Futures Game, which is Sunday, July 13, is that the contest will last nine innings. In previous years, the game was a seven-inning event, except in 2000 when the game went nine innings.
SAN FRANCISCO–One of a scout’s most difficult jobs is getting a feel for pitchers in an environment like the Futures Game. That said, their assessments are always interesting.
Last year, a lot of scouts weren’t on Brewers righthander Yovani Gallardo after he showed very little in his one inning of work. Gallardo’s stuff was flat, his fastball didn’t have its usual hop and his offspeed pitches were mediocre at best.
But that was one inning. We all know what Gallardo is capable of, he just didn’t have his best outing on the big stage in Pittsburgh in 2006.
So when breaking down the top five arms in this year’s Futures Game, keep in mind this list is based on a consensus of scouts who worked the event–and only got to see one inning or less from all of the 17 arms who took the mound on Sunday: [...] Continue Reading »
SAN FRANCISCO–Pirates first baseman Steven Pearce is having a nice year that began at high Class A Lynchburg, where he hit 11 homers in April. The 24-year-old was quickly promoted to Double-A Altoona and he’s been raking in the Eastern League, hitting .330/.397/.588 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs in 221 at-bats.
But several scouts adressed concerns about Pearce’s ability to handle quality breaking balls at the upper levels of the minors on his path to Pittsburgh.
“I think heâ€™s got to make a little bit of an adjustment with his approach,” a scout from a National League club said. “He’s a straight pull guy who swings at everything as hard as he can.
“Thatâ€™s not going to play at the upper levelsâ€”no way. Heâ€™s a pull guy that wants to go out there and get it. If he can get out there and use the other side of the field a little more they might have something. If he canâ€™t, then heâ€™ll get eaten alive.”
â€¢ Justin Upton got the U.S. on the board with a line-drive solo home run in the third inning off White Sox righthander Fautino De Los Santos, and while that blast was certainly impressive, the World righthander simply missed his spot with a 96 mph fastball.
“We were trying to go with the fastball down and in,” World third base coach Tim Bogar said. “The book on him is to bust him down and in with the fastball and then set him up away. But it rode back up and away and it was over.” [...] Continue Reading »
SAN FRANCISCO–The World team stole four bases on five attempts in the first three innings, prompting some thoughts from U.S. righthander Jeff Niemann . . .
“That mound was pristine and it made things a lot easier,” the 6-foot-9 Devil Rays righthander said. “It was a blast. Both lineups were ridiculous. But rememberâ€”you donâ€™t steal in exhibition games. Come on now.”
It’s almost impossible to complain about getting to watch the last two Futures Games from the cozy confines of the U.S. team’s dugout, but it does make it hard to live blog . . . Yeah, working for Baseball America (and on this day for XM Satellite Radio, the sponsor of the Futures Game) can be tough sometimes.
Now the easy part–watching the game from the dugout gives a great insight into how much fun the American players have getting selected for the game. Athletics righthander Michael Madsen was the only player here who didn’t get in the game, and talking with him in the seventh inning, he still seemed to enjoy the whole experience. [...] Continue Reading »
And that’s the old ballgame. Dominant effort from the World pitching staff, giving up runs on two solo shots but otherwise holding the U.S. in check. In the seventh, Rich Thompson opened by striking out Jacoby Ellsbury and getting Colby Rasmus to fly out to left. Emiliano Fruto came in and walked John Whittleman before getting Ian Stewart to fly out to center to end the game. Interestingly, both Ellsbury and Stewart ended up going 0-for-4 in the game, surely one of the only times that has happened in Futures Game history. Thompson sat at 94-96 mph in his stint, while Fruto was at 90-91.
So the World ends up winning 7-2, matching the highest number of runs a World squad has scored in the Futures Game (it last happened in the first Futures Game in 1999). Chin-Lung Hu, who went 2-for-2 with a double, drove in two runs, stole a base and played his usual nice defense, won the Larry Doby Award as the game’s MVP. We have Baseball Americans in both clubhouses, so we’ll have plenty more coming your way as the afternoon continues. Right now we’re getting ready for the always exciting Legends and Celebrity Softball Game.
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