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Will Futures Game nudge Cleveland Indians' Triston McKenzie, Francisco Mejia in right direction?

By Paul Hoynes • Jul 10, 2017 at 2:30 PM

MIAMI — Triston McKenzie threw two pitches and had a great time. Francisco Mejia felt the same way, but as a catcher he had to work a little harder than McKenzie.

McKenzie and Mejia, two of the best prospects in the Indians' minor league system, played in Sunday's Futures Game at Marlins Park in conjunction with Tuesday night's All-Star Game. Team USA beat the World, 7-6.

In the ninth inning, McKenzie, pitching for Team USA, threw two pitches to Atlanta's Ronald Acuna, retiring him on a fly ball to center field for the first out. The two 93 mph fastballs marked the end of his day's work.

"I knew the plan going in so it didn't really bother me," said McKenzie, the 42nd overall pick in the 2015 draft.

McKenzie, who grew up in Loxahatchee, Fla., pitched in front a large gathering of family and friends. Loxahatchee is about an hour's drive from Miami.

"I couldn't tell you," said McKenzie, 19, when asked how many of his supporters were in the stands. "I left tickets. People bought tickets. Everybody just came out there to support me and I'm glad for it."

McKenzie was playing in his first Futures Game. This was No.2 for Mejia. To make it even better, he started.

"It was fun, because I was starting," Mejia. "I was so happy to start the game. There were new coaches here, new people, new manager, everything. And new players, too. Not just guys from last year."

Mejia caught five innings. Team USA took an early 7-0 lead. In the sixth, Mejia beat out an infield single in front of the plate and came around to score to make it 7-2.

"I hit a little bouncer," said Mejia, 21, who signed with the Indians as a free agent in the Dominican Republic in 2012. "I got a good pitch to hit, but that's part of the game. I was running hard. I play hard all the time."

McKenzie didn't get to enjoy the All-Star atmosphere long. He was scheduled to rejoin his Class A Lynchburg teammates on Monday.

In 16 starts this year, McKenzie is 7-4 with a 2.19 ERA. He has 115 strikeouts and 32 walks in 89 2/3 innings. He has been schooled well when it comes to what he hopes for the future.

Asked if he could make it to Class AA Akron by the end of the season, McKenzie said, "That's out of my control and it's not my decision to make. I go out there and focus on what I can control and that's the game of baseball. "

The switch-hitting Mejia is already at Akron where he's hitting .339 (77-for-227) with 16 doubles, two triples, nine homers and 34 RBI. He's struck out 34 times, drew 16 walks, and posted a .928 OPS.

Asked what his approach to hitting is, Mejia said, "Hit line drives to the middle of the field. I don't have a lot of power to the middle. Like (Jose) Altuve, hit it in the middle. If they pitch in, drive it out."

Mejia's has been working hard for Anna Bolton, the team's interpreter, and his English has improved. It has helped him communicate with the coaching staff, teammates and pitchers.

"I was scared to talk to people like you (reporters) and other people," said Mejia.

Marlins Park made an impression on McKenzie and Mejia.

"It's a great atmosphere to be in," said McKenzie. "I have to work hard this year and, hopefully, next year so I can be back in it."

Said Mejia, "It makes you excited, because you want to play here. You don't want to play in the minor leagues. This stadium is nice. Last year, San Diego was great. Hitting BP here is way better than when you're hitting BP in the minor leagues."

Which is the whole idea of the Futures Game. To show talented young players what the end game looks like. To nudge them in that direction and see how far they can get.

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