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Futures scouts are peer group

By Nick Cafardo
July 12, 2010

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s one of the few times of the year that one can sit back, relax, and watch the next Ryan Howard or Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee or Felix Hernandez.

The Futures Game, which debuted at Fenway Park in 1999, has become an event, played two days before the All-Star Game in the All-Star city. It also has become one very big scouting combine, with teams sending plenty of talent evaluators to watch some of the best minor league players at all levels in one place.

The Red Sox were represented off the field by general manager Theo Epstein, who drove to the game with Padres GM Jed Hoyer, as well as scouts Allard Baird and Jared Porter. Yankees special assistant Kevin Towers, Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod, Marlins executive Dan Jennings, and many other scouts attended the game.

One could see old friends like former Red Sox infielder Luis Rivera, the manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who is grooming one of the top up-and-coming pitchers in baseball in Blue Jays prospect Kyle Drabek. Rivera was a coach for the World team, managed by former Red Sox designated hitter Don Baylor, and Rivera also was helping to translate for the Latin players.

One could also see some familiar names, like Romine, as in Austin Romine, son of former Red Sox outfielder Kevin, who is one of the best catching prospects in baseball for the Yankees at the Double A level. There also was Double A Chattanooga (Dodgers) shortstop Dee Gordon, son of former Sox pitcher Tom Gordon, who had 73 steals last season in A ball.

Romine, playing in his own backyard (Lake Forest High in El Toro, Calif.), might have risen to Triple A if the Yankees had been able to pull off dealing catcher Jesus Montero for Cliff Lee. That fell through, and now the Yankees continue to have a nice logjam at the position. It appears the Yankees may wind up keeping Romine as their eventual every-day major league catcher and continue to use Montero, who could be a No. 3 hitter, as trade bait.

“One thing I’ve always been told is just take care of your own playing and everything else takes care of itself,’’ Romine said. Romine is 21 and has a Brad Ausmus look to him. As Yankees GM Brian Cashman said recently, “Defensively, he’s major league ready right now.’’ Romine is considered a good receiver with a plus arm, and he’s shown some power. He’s hitting .289 with five homers and 40 RBIs at Trenton.

In 11 seasons, the Red Sox have had one Most Valuable Player in the game, outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin in 2008. Alfonso Soriano, then in the Yankees organization, was MVP of the first game at Fenway. Other past MVPs include Aaron Hill, Grady Sizemore, Billy Butler, and Jose Reyes.

The Red Sox had only one representative in the game, which highlighted Casey Kelly a year ago — tall righthander Stolmy Pimentel, who wears No. 45 because Pedro Martinez is his favorite pitcher. The personable 20-year-old Dominican, who often is compared to another former Sox righty, Anibal Sanchez, throws four pretty decent pitches. He’s got a 92-95-mile-per-hour four-seam fastball, a cutter, a changeup that is considered his best pitch, and a curveball.

“I’m happy with all of my pitches right now,’’ said Pimentel, who pitched to two batters in the sixth. “I work on them all the time, trying to make them better. I just want to keep getting better and make my dream come true. Now, my goal is to finish the year in Double A. But I have to keep pitching good for that to happen.’’

Pimentel went 3-and-2 to Marlins Triple A (New Orleans) first baseman Logan Morrison before retiring him on a long fly to left-center on which Gorkys Hernandez had to make a leaping catch at the wall. Pimentel got a swing and miss on his changeup during the at-bat. The next batter, shortstop Danny Espinosa (Nationals, Double A Harrisburg) grounded to second on a 2-1 count. Pimentel was relieved in an effort to get as many pitchers in the game as possible.

Pimentel is 5-7 with a 4.61 ERA for Salem in the Carolina League (Advanced A) and has allowed 85 hits in 80 innings. He’s struck out 55 and walked 25. His ERA rose when he allowed 10 hits and eight runs in 2 1/3 innings vs. Wilmington June 26, but he hadn’t allowed three or more runs in nine of his last 10 starts. He even carried a no-hit bid through six innings in two starts, but he had to come out of the game both times because he’d reached his pitch limit. Pimentel said he was allowed to go 99 pitches in his last start, the most he’s thrown this season.

Pimentel was signed by Boston at age 16 and he entered the Dominican Summer League, where he was named the Latin Pitcher of the Year. He went 10-7 with a 3.82 ERA at Greenville in 2009 after going 5-2 with a 3.14 ERA at Lowell in 2008.

Pimentel was quite honored by the opportunity to represent the Red Sox and his country in the game. He hadn’t been told ahead of time when he was going to pitch, but it didn’t matter to him because, “I’m so excited just to be here. I’m willing to do anything they want me to do. This is something that means so much to me.’’

Pimentel said he saw Martinez in the Dominican and had a conversation with him. He said Martinez told him to “work hard every time I have the ball. Just be aggressive and positive and just be you.’’ Pimentel said his other favorite pitcher is Ervin Santana, and one certainly can see the similarity in body type — Pimental is about 6 feet 3 inches and 185 pounds.

With its 9-1 victory, the US broke a three-game winning streak by the World team.

Hank Conger, a second-generation Korean-American catcher, blasted a three-run homer in the fifth to seal the win. Conger, who was voted MVP of the game, is at Triple A Salt Lake City, an Angels affiliate, and is from Huntington Beach, Calif.

The Phillies’ talented young outfielder, Domonic Brown, who may make Jayson Werth expendable, left the game with a tweaked hamstring.

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