07/13/08 6:29 PM ET
Nerves not a problem in Futures Game
World Team wins in spite of Yankee Stadium excitement
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Tino Martinez and his coaching staff for the XM All-Star Futures Game admittedly didn't know a whole lot about all their World Team pitchers, but they knew plenty about the nerves a young player can feel pitching for the first time in "The House that Ruth Built."
The kids threw them a curve. More accurately, they threw everything from knee-bending curves to changeups and even a few 100 mph fastballs. As a result, they threw a 3-0 shutout against a U.S. Team that was loaded with hitters that will likely be headed to the Olympics next month.
"They were aggressive," Martinez said. "Our guys had fun, and we just pitched a great ballgame. All of our pitchers pitched their one inning and they did the job."
One after another, they came in, got their outs, and came out, starting with Phillies Double-A prospect Carlos Carrasco's two-strikeout opening inning and continuing down the line.
Not until a fifth-inning, two-out walk to Taylor Teagarden (Rangers) and an ensuing single from Jason Donald (Phillies) did the U.S. Team put a runner into scoring position. The only hit up until then was a Matt LaPorta single that glanced off World Team third baseman Luke Hughes on its way into left field. Arguably, the best-hit ball for the U.S. Team for the first six innings was a deep drive from Pirates top prospect Andrew McCutchen, and that sailed foul.
More than a few of these players had never been to New York, let alone Yankee Stadium.
"That was the thing we worried about," said World Team coach Larry Parrish, who manages in Toledo. "We hadn't seen any of these guys in Triple-A. Some of the guys were A-ball guys. You don't know what you're going to get with some of these guys, so we tried to pitch them right in the middle.
"[Hector] Rondon, he hadn't pitched above Kinston in A-ball, and he comes in today throwing nice and easy about 95. And we're like, 'Whoaaah, we could've saved this guy for later.' That's a pretty good arm right there."
Rondon (Indians) pitched a perfect third inning. Rays Double-A right-hander Eduardo Morlan followed with a scoreless fourth, using a nasty slider to send down U.S. designated hitter Jamie D'Antona. Once Teagarden and Donald put together their rally off Royals Double-A prospect Julio Pimentel, the rest of the World Team bullpen clamped down.
Pimentel struck out McCutchen on a breaking ball to end the threat, starting a string of seven consecutive U.S. batters retired. Jesus Delgado (Marlins) retired the middle of the U.S. lineup in order in the sixth before Fernando Salas (Cardinals) sent down top prospects Nate Schierholtz (Giants), LaPorta and Dexter Fowler (Rockies) in the seventh.
"I was really happy with the team," Castro said. "We shut down the U.S. team. That's great. There's a lot of young guys here."
Henry Rodriguez (A's) broke the string with a leadoff walk in the eighth. All he did from there was unleash a series of 100 mph fastballs to strike out the next three batters. Rodriguez threw so violently that he fell over on the mound after delivering one of those fastballs.
The combined efforts allowed the World Team's early lead to stand up in what was a 1-0 game until the seventh. A first-inning throwing error from Donald provided the opening for the World Team to take an early lead. Rangers prospect Elvis Andrus ended up on second base with one out after the miscue, and promptly stole third to set up Pablo Sandoval (Giants) for the RBI on a fielder's-choice grounder.
It was a quiet offensive afternoon for a U.S. team playing its last tryout before USA Baseball officials decide the roster for next month's Olympic team, for which many of these players are candidates. Still, the Futures Game showed that the U.S. can rely on quality pitching and a solid defense, which threw out World Team baserunners for three consecutive outs. Reliever Brett Anderson (A's) caught back-to-back runners trying for second base in the third inning, while Teagarden celebrated his entrance into the game by throwing out Sandoval for the first out of the fourth.
The U.S. squad had no defense, however, for Che-Hsuan Lin's seventh-inning drive down the left-field line after Juan Francisco (Reds) singled to start the breakaway rally. Lin pounced on a first-pitch fastball from Ryan Mattheus (Rockies) and poked it just inside the foul pole for a two-run homer. Not only was it the first run-scoring hit of the game, it was the first extra-base hit from either side.
"At the beginning, I was a little nervous at Yankee Stadium, on a big-league field," said Lin, who took home MVP honors. "But on the home run at-bat, I was trying to get a good pitch to hit."
If they had nerves, it wasn't showing.
"It was a big day," Carrasco said of pitching at Yankee Stadium. "It was the biggest emotion in my life. I tried to enjoy the whole thing today."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.