Almonte, Ventura successful in Futures Game
Royals prospects log scoreless appearances in World Team's loss to U.S.
NEW YORK -- Miguel Almonte got a call from his family after pitching in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. They were happy for him, he said. He pitched well.
Nine different pitchers saw action for the World Team at Citi Field, but the Royals pitching prospect made the most of his opportunity on the All-Star Weekend stage, firing a perfect seventh inning in the World's 4-2 loss to the U.S.
"I'm fine, because I'm ready to throw one inning," Almonte said. "Most people here, they only throw the one inning. I'm happy because I appreciate that I got into the game."
Almonte made quick work of the U.S. Team, needing just 14 pitches to retire the three batters he faced. He got Tigers prospect James McCann to ground out to third, Twins prospect Byron Buxton to strike out swinging on five pitches and Cardinals prospect Kolten Wong to fly out to shallow right.
Almonte, a Santiago, Dominican Republic native, mixed a fastball, curveball and changeup, reaching as high as 95 mph on the radar gun.
"I'm happy because I'm here. I'm thankful for the opportunity to play in New York," Almonte said. "I'm happy to be representing my country, the Dominican Republic, and the Kansas City Royals, my team."
His organizational teammate, Royals pitching prospect Yordano Ventura, was even more effective. He only needed one pitch -- a 99-mph fastball -- to record the final out of the eighth inning, getting Diamondbacks prospect Chris Owings to fly out to left.
Ventura was scheduled to pitch the bottom of the ninth if the World Team had mounted a comeback in the top half.
That doesn't mean Ventura didn't enjoy his time in the Big Apple, though.
"I have enjoyed myself here, because I have the chance to meet all kinds of new colleagues, new players," Ventura said through a translator. "I really enjoy sharing experiences, stuff about the game."
Ventura has played in the Futures Game before, but not on a stage like Citi Field. He played in the game at Kauffman Stadium -- a park that could one day be his home -- last season, showcasing his talent by regularly hitting 100 mph with his pitches.
That fastball has been ranked as the best of any pitcher in the Royals' organization, and Ventura is the club's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com. So far this season, he's 5-3 with a 3.14 ERA and 92 strikeouts over 15 starts for Triple-A Omaha.
"This is something very unique, special," Ventura said. "It happens just once a year, and I have to make sure that I enjoy it the most that I can."
Almonte, the Dominican Royals Pitcher of the Year in 2012, made his first appearance in the Futures Game on Sunday. He's posted a 3.41 ERA with 64 strikeouts over 13 starts with Class A Lexington so far this season.
The next time both players visit Queens, they might be doing it as Major Leaguers. Ventura might not be far from the Majors with a triple-digit fastball and an improved breaking ball, and Almonte has shown that his 96-mph fastball and changeup can both be plus pitches.
"I just need to be patient, be ready for that opportunity, that chance," Ventura said. "Once I get that chance, I have to take care of that, and play as hard and work as hard as I can to make it happen."
For now, though, they're both just happy to be a part of All-Star Weekend at Citi Field.
"Here are the players that other teams picked to play," Almonte said. "I'm ready every time, because when I go to the mound, I can do a good job."
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.