WCCO Radio’s Dan Cook
It was a sunny, summer Sunday as some of the brightest prospects in baseball took to Target Field for the 2014 All-Star Futures Game.
It was especially fun for Twins fans as they got their first look at prospects Jose Berrios, Kennys Vargas and Alex Meyer playing in their future home ballpark.
Berrios was recently promoted from High-A Fort Meyers to AA-New Britain. So far, advancing a level hasn’t phased him.
“You know, higher competition, but same baseball,” Berrios said before the game. “I need to do my work and keep going.”
Berrios didn’t seem over-matched by the minor league All-Star lineup he was facing either. He started the game for the World Team and struck out the first batter he faced, Nationals AA-prospect Michael Taylor, on a 95 mph fastball, and got the next two hitters, Red Sox AA-prospect Sean Coyle and Dodgers High-A prospect Corey Saeger, to fly out to right.
After the game, he talked about how much he enjoyed the experience.
“I got a chance to play with a lot of good players in front of Minnesota fans,” Berrios said. “It’s awesome for me.”
Twins AA-prospect Kennys Vargas was in the starting lineup for the World Team too. Prior to the game he was trying to soak in the atmosphere.
“It’s really fun. I know a lot of guys here in the clubhouse,” Vargas said. “It’s a great experience. It means a lot for me to be here tonight.”
His results were slightly mixed as he struck out swinging in the first inning off of Red Sox AA-prospect Henry Owens, but boomed a double off the right-field wall in the fourth off of Baltimore Low-A prospect Hunter Harvey. He batted again in the sixth, swinging through strike three again, this time off of Nationals Low-A prospect Lucas Giolito. His final at-bat came in the eighth against Reds AA-prospect Robert Stephenson, which resulted in a ground-out to second.
His defense – which has been something of an Achilles heel for him in the minors – was solid. He snagged a line drive hit at him, made a couple of routine plays on pop-ups and cleanly fielded each ball thrown to him at first base.
After the game, Vargas was asked about his double.
“I see the ball and I tell my mind, I have to get the extra base,” Vargas said. “And I did.”
He was also thrilled with the reaction he got from the crowd.
“It’s pretty good. When I hit a double, it was so loud,” Vargas said. “I feel like a big leaguer.”
The final Twins prospect to make an appearance in the game was U.S. Team pitcher and Twins AAA-prospect Alex Meyer. He entered the game in the fifth inning with his club up 1-0.
To call it an “efficient” appearance for Meyer would be putting it mildly.
The first pitch he threw was lined out to left by Seattle High-A prospect Gabby Guerrero. The second pitch he threw was a strike to Oakland’s A-ball prospect Renato Nunez, who promptly lined Meyer’s third pitch for a single to left-center. Meyer’s fourth and final pitch got Rangers A-ball catching prospect Jorge Alfaro to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
That’s right, a full inning completed on just four pitches from Meyer. Not exactly something Twins fans are used to from their starting pitchers.
“Boy I’ll take it,” Meyers said about the brevity of his outing. “If I can do that in Rochester a couple of times and get some quick innings, that would be good too, so hopefully I can carry that with me.”
He was also impressed with the crowd’s reaction.
“It was awesome. I mean it really was,” Meyers said. “I figured there’d be some sort of one [ovation], but it was loud. When you know it’s for yourself you get the chills.”
Meyer’s outing was so quick, U.S. Team manager Tom Kelly pretty much missed it.
“I was fooling with the lineup card, getting everything straight. We were changing players at the time and I was getting them in the right spots. I know he gave up a hit and the next thing I know they’re coming off the field,” Kelly said. “I asked him if he did any sweating and he said he did more in the bullpen than on the field.”
At the end of the day, the U.S. Team beat the World Team 3-2 on the strength of Texas AA-prospect Joey Gallo.
But the final score wasn’t as important as the experience for players who all hope to be the next crop of MLB All-Stars.
“Everything,” Vargas said when asked what the most memorable part of the day was. “I’m going to take everything away. I got the the opportunity to be here. It’s amazing.”