World Pitchers Dominate Again

NEW YORK—The United States has some work to do before the Olympics.

The U.S. team, made up of 25 of the 60 players from whom USA Baseball will pick its squad for the Beijing Olympics, got shut down by nine World pitchers in the 10th annual All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, managing just three hits in a 3-0 victory for the World.

The World wins evens the all-time Futures Game series record at five victories for both the World and the U.S., and the World win followed a pattern similar to those in most of its other victories: dominant pitching.

The U.S. team managed baserunners in all but two of the game’s nine innings, but never mounted a serious rally until the bottom of the ninth, when Indians third baseman Wes Hodges opened the inning with a double and new Indian Matt LaPorta worked a walk to bring Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler to the plate as the tying run.

Fowler stung a ball down the first-base line, but Giants first baseman Angel Villalona stabbed it to record the final out.

Hodges’ double was the United States’ only extra-base hit of the game, with LaPorta’s single in the second and Jason Donald’s single in the fifth the team’s only other hits.

“Obviously we didn’t swing the bats too good,” U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. “We made mistakes pitching, but stuff happens.

“When you get a different guy out there every time and you know you only have one or two at-bats, it’s tough.”

The World got all the scoring it needed with an unearned run in the first, but its big blast came in the seventh when Red Sox outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin drove a ball out to left field for a two-run home run. Lin hit the first pitch he saw in the game, a 94 mph fastball from Rockies righthander Ryan Mattheus, after he came in to replace Mets prospect Fernando Martinez in center field.

Lin followed his home run with a single in the ninth, and he won the Larry Doby Award as the game’s MVP.

“I was looking for a fastball middle-in, and I knew I hit it hard,” Lin said (through a translator) of his home run.

As a Red Sox farmhand, Lin was roundly booed throughout the game—except when he hit his home run—particularly in the postgame when he was presented with the award.

“It’s part of tradition,” Lin said.

The unearned run in the first came after Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus reached on a fielder’s choice, then advanced to second on an errant throw by Donald as he tried to turn a double play. Tigers outfielder Wilkin Ramirez walked, and Andrus stole third, then scoring when Giants first baseman Pablo Sandoval hit into a fielder’s choice.

While Andrus’ steal of third allowed the World to score its first run, the World’s aggressive baserunning actually kept the score from being more lopsided. World baserunners were caught stealing four times, including twice in the same inning, and twice ran themselves into strikeout/throw out double plays.

But the real story of the game was the World pitching staff, which showcased nine power arms. World pitchers gave up five walks to go with their three hits, but their nine strikeouts more than made up for it. The U.S. didn’t really have any hard-hit balls—even Hodges’ double bounced off a wall in short left-field and was called a double just because of fan interference.

The hardest thrower was Athletics righthander Henry Rodriguez, who showed his trademark wildness but also showed his overpowering velocity. He touched 100 mph several times and pitched consistently in the high 90s.

“Pretty impressive? That was amazing—99, 99, 100, 100? That’s an amazing arm,” said Twins third baseman Luke Hughes, Rodriguez’s teammate on the World team.

Rodriguez is known for his plus velocity and was obviously airing it out on a bigger stage, even falling down on the mound after he delivered his first 100 mph pitch.

“Obviously it’s easier to throw 100 knowing I’m only going to throw an inning,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m used to it, because usually when I throw five or six innings I still throw 100.

Marlins righthander Jesus Delgado also pitched in the high 90s, touching 98 mph in his outing. Delgado isn’t known for velocity quite that high, but like most other players in the game said he was juiced by the Yankee Stadium setting: “Maybe my arm got excited,” he said.

The U.S. team didn’t feature every premium prospect who might otherwise have been available because it was picked by USA Baseball from a smaller player pool than the game usually has. Futures Game rosters are traditionally selected by Baseball America and Major League Baseball from all full-season minor leaguers, but USA Baseball picked this year’s U.S. team to promote the Olympics and give the people picking the Olympic team a chance to see a lot of their candidates in one place.

The Olympic team is being picked from minor leaguers who are not on 40-man rosters and who are made available by major league organizations, so the prospect pool is not quite as deep. And it’s worth noting that a lot of veteran hitters will probably end up on the Olympic team, but they weren’t picked for this game to keep the focus on young players.

“I saw a lot of positive things out there today,” Johnson said.

The U.S. Olympic roster will be announced on Wednesday.