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07/08/07 7:48 PM ET
Futures spoils belong to the World
Speed, timely hitting carry World Team over U.S. prospects
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Get 'em on, and get 'em in. It's an age-old formula for baseball success, and it's a formula the World Team used with great precision on Sunday in a 7-2 victory over the U.S. in the annual XM All-Star Futures Game at AT&T Park. From the outset, the World Team, managed by Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, took advantage of its speed and some timely hitting to put up a solid offensive attack against some of the game's brightest pitching prospects. "Basically, [Marichal] looked at the stats and the scouting reports," said World center fielder Michael Saunders (Mariners), "and gave us the green light to go." And off they went. In the first inning, with right-hander Jeff Niemann (Devil Rays) on the mound, Saunders reached on a fielding error by second baseman Chris Coghlan (Marlins), stole second, then scored on Chin-Lung Hu's double. Hu (Dodgers) went on to steal third and scored on a sac fly by Joey Votto (Reds) to give the World an early 2-0 lead. "Last year we got beat," said Hu, a second-time Futures Game participant who would go on to win the Larry Doby MVP award. "I just wanted to do well to help the team win. I wasn't trying to do too much." But what Saunders and Hu did early in this game set the tone for a day of World domination. In the third, Saunders was set to lead off again, this time against Yankees prospect Joba Chamberlain. "My second at-bat," Saunders said, "[Hu] and I said, 'Let's do the exact same thing as the first inning.' " This time around, Saunders drew a walk, swiped second and came home on Hu's ground-ball single to right. Once again, the aggressive approach on the bases paid off for Marichal's club. "I had a good coaching staff," Marichal said. "They knew these kids real well. They knew they could hit and run." Whereas the World Team put together runs the old-fashioned way, the U.S. team got on the board with power. In the third, Justin Upton, the No. 1 overall Draft choice of the D-backs in 2005, took Fautino De Los Santos (White Sox) deep with a solo shot to left to make it 3-1. But the World did not rest. In the fourth, Max Ramirez (Indians) led off with a double and later scored on Carlos Gonzalez's (D-backs) sacrifice fly. And even when the U.S. struck with John Whittleman's (Rangers) solo homer off Deolis Guerra (Mets) in the fifth, the World responded with some power of its own in the form of Votto's solo blast off Clay Buchholz (Red Sox) in the top of the sixth. By the time James Van Ostrand (Astros) hit a leadoff homer and Wladimir Balentien (Mariners) chipped in with an RBI double in the seventh, this one was over. As impressed as he was with his team's offense, Marichal had to give credit to a pitching staff that got scoreless innings of work from the likes of starter Rick Vanden Hurk (Marlins), Carlos Carrasco (Phillies), Henry Sosa (Giants) and Franklin Morales (Rockies). "I couldn't believe these kids' command," Marichal said. "One thing that really surprised me was the command they had with their changeup. They could throw it at any time." Though the talents of those on the field were clear, U.S. team manager Dave Winfield reminded his players of the value of a strong work ethic to get the most out of their abilities. "I told them before the game started, there are a lot of people you never know how good they're going to be, or what kind of player," Winfield said. "I said, 'If you saw Pete Rose when he was a kid, he wasn't fast, he wasn't strong and he wasn't a home run hitter. Look what he did.' Anybody can succeed at this game if they do the right things and play it right." In this particular showing, the World succeeded for the fourth time in the event's nine-year history. But Marichal saw plenty of skill from players in both dugouts. "I was surprised with all the talent I saw on both teams," he said. "I think baseball has a great future."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.