07/13/2003 9:43 PM ET
U.S. ekes out Futures Game win
Smitherman HR breaks late tie; Sizemore named MVP
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Minor Leagues and Prospects at MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The fifth RadioShack All-Star Futures Game, more than anything else, was an
exhibition of how stocked the minor leagues are with pitching talent.
The U.S. and World Teams combined for just 11 hits and struck out 19 times, but all it took was one
swing of the bat to determine a victor.
Reds outfield prospect Stephen Smitherman worked Aussie lefty Travis Blackley (Mariners) to a 2-2
count, then deposited the next pitch into his team's bullpen in left field to give the United States
Team a 3-2 win over the World Team on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. A total of 42,983 took in the
Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game on All-Star Sunday.
Less than two weeks ago, Smitherman got his first taste of the big leagues, pinch-hitting and lining
out to center field in his one at-bat. Given the choice, he'd love to stay in the bigs, but he did think
his day here was comparable.
"Well, I got a hit," Smitherman said. "That's a plus. I knew I got a good piece of it, but I thought I
got under it too much. You're going to get excited hitting a home run at any All-Star Game, at any
Despite Smitherman's heroics, it was Indians Double-A outfielder Grady Sizemore who received the
Larry Doby Award as the game's most valuable player. Sizemore drove in the United States' first
two runs with a single and homer.
Smitherman refused to play the MVP jealousy game.
"I'm totally OK with that," he said. "(Sizemore) kept us in the game. Without his hits, my home run
wouldn't have meant anything."
Preston Larrison, who hails from nearby Aurora, Ill., picked up the win, much to the delight of 70
friends and family members who attended the game. Former White Sox prospect Royce Ring, now
in the Mets system, picked up the save. Blackley was charged with the loss.
"It's funny how it worked out," said Ring, a first-round White Sox pick in 2002 who was sent to the
Mets for Roberto Alomar. "It's great to be here and I'm happy I could help our team get the win."
The victory gave the United States a 3-2 edge in the five Futures Games played on All-Star Sunday
since its inception in 1999.
The World Team cracked the scoreboard first, and almost immediately. Ramon Nivar (Rangers) led
off the game with a double down the left-field line. One out later, the second baseman stole third. It
appeared that U.S. starter Neal Cotts (White Sox) would get out of it after striking out Rene Reyes
(Rockies), but he walked Pete LaForest (Devil Rays) and gave up an RBI single to Franklin Gutierrez
(Dodgers) to make it 1-0.
The lead didn't last long. U.S. Team leadoff hitter Dave Krynzel (Brewers) drew a walk against
World Team starter Rich Harden (A's), stole second on the next pitch and then scored on Sizemore's
single back up the middle.
The U.S. Team took a 2-1 lead in the third as Sizemore swung at the first pitch he saw from Seung
Song (Expos) leading off the inning and deposited it in the right-field seats.
Alexis Rios (Blue Jays) threw his hat into the ring in the top of the fifth. He drove the first pitch from
Mariners prospect Clint Nageotte into the right-field seats, not far from Sizemore's shot, to knot the
score at two.
Not unexpectedly, it was a game mostly dominated by pitching. With no pitcher going more than
one inning, hurlers on both squads could just air it out, and the results reflected that. Harden struck
out the side in that first inning, and the U.S. managed just six hits all game, striking out eight
As good as World Team pitching was, the U.S. arms were even better. The World offense came up
with only five hits and took the bat back to the dugout 11 times.
John VanBenschoten (Pirates) pitched the first of three perfect innings for the U.S Team in the
second. Gavin Floyd (Phillies) struck out two in the third, despite coming in without his "A"
"I didn't think I threw that well," Floyd said. "I had a bad warmup. My pitches were effective but I
had bad location."
"I saw Gavin throw earlier in the year," U.S. catcher Joe Mauer (Twins) said. "He didn't have his top
game, but the game he brought was pretty good."
Royals phenom Zack Greinke finished the streak by throwing his first eight pitches for strikes en
route to an effortless, two-strikeout inning. Greinke, recently promoted to Double-A at age 19, was
able to adjust his approach after entering the game, particularly following up behind
VanBenschoten and Floyd.
"I wanted to throw as hard as I could," Greinke said. "I realized, those guys were throwing in the
mid-to-high 90s. Why should I throw as hard as I can when I couldn't throw as hard as them? That
helped me settle down.
"This whole event probably exceeded my expectations."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for
MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.