As I type, they're doing the on-the-field intros for the Futures Game, one of my more enjoyable assignments of each season.
From a logistical standpoint, getting to the All-Star game site a day early for this event allows me to ease into the next two days, which are frenetic. But from a journalistic standpoint, more importantly, I get early views of some of New York's future stars (or, flops).
This is my sixth Futures Game. Here are the players about whom I've written: David Wright in 2004, Lastings Milledge and Yusmeiro Petit in 2005, Phil Hughes in 2006, Joba Chamberlain in 2007 and Jesus Montero in 2009. The 2008 game took place at Yankee Stadium, you might recall, so we had other people cover it while I went to a Rockies-Mets game that night.
This year, I'm focusing on Austin Romine, the Yankees catching prospect. There's a newsy element to the story because, had Montero gone to Seattle in the Yankees' attempted trade for Cliff Lee, Romine would've climbed up the Yankees' depth chart for catcher. Yes, we know that Montero very well might not wind up as a catcher, but he's still one for now.
"It would’ve been good for me," Romine admitted of the Lee trade. "You can’t control it."
Romine is putting together a solid year for Double-A Trenton. The biggest knock on him is that he doesn't throw out enough base-stealers; this year, he has nailed 12 of 63 thiefs, a 19-percent success rate.
"People kind of get on me about that," Romine said, "but we’ve been working on that. " The first thing he does every day, he said, is work with Trenton catcher Victor Valencia - a former Yankees minor-leaguer whom I covered when he was a prospect (yeesh, I'm getting old) - on his release times and footwork.
The other New York players here are Yankees right-hander Hector Noesi and Mets right-hander Jeurys Familia. Unfortunately, neither young man speaks much English, and I speak even less Spanish. But Noesi, performing extremely well for Trenton, said he's working on his mechanics and his focus most of all. Familia, whose numbers at Class A St. Lucie show someone who's both talented and raw, said he's working on his changeup. If either guy does much during the game, I'll check in with him afterwards and try to find an interpreter.
Plenty of team representatives scouting the team, as is always the case here. The Yankees have special adviser Kevin Towers, who lives in nearby San Diego. Haven't seen any Mets people, but they (or he, or she) could just be hiding right under my nose.
--You saw that the Mets won, and that the Yankees are winning.
--Great tribute here to Bob Sheppard, from The Record's Pete Caldera.
--Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles are close to hiring Buck Showalter as their manager. As we've discussed previously here, I think that's a great hire.
UPDATE, 6:07 p.m. PST: The United States team defeated the World team, 9-1, and Angels prospect Hank Conger received MVP honors for blasting a three-run homer to rightfield. The player I enjoyed watching the most was another Angels prospect, Mike Trout, who runs so fast that he makes Brett Gardner look like Jorge Posada.
(Yes, I'm exaggerating. But man, is Trout fast.)
Among the New Yorkers, Romine caught the final four innings. He looked fine mechanically. He got credit for a caught stealing of Eury Perez in the seventh, but Perez actually overslid second base. Romine's finest moment occurred in the eighth, when he crushed a double off...Familia, who threw extremely hard (98 mph) but fell behind all four batters he faced and got ripped for three doubles.
Forget about a changeup. Familia needs to work on his fastball command.
(Warning: Ridiculously small sample.)
Noesi - who, just for conversation's sake, once served a suspension for failing a drug test - looked pretty good in throwing a scoreless second, but he benefited from some good defense, as he allowed a couple of hard-hit balls to outfielders. Noesi threw mostly fastballs, and they clocked from 91 to 93.
I had the good fortune of sitting next to Baseball America's Jim Callis during the game, and Jim told me that Noesi usually is more in the 89-to-91 range. Pitchers tend to throw harder in this game, as a) they know that many important eyes are watching them, and b) they can empty the tank since they're going two innings at most, rather than an entire start.
And that's it for now. The Celebrity Softball game is about to start, but I'd rather dive into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades than stick around for that. See you in the morning.