Thompson gets Futures Game call
With Cabrera in Majors, outfielder gets honor instead
DETROIT -- For the past few years, being a Yankees prospect meant you were either destined to be traded to another organization or destined to spend many years in the Minors, watching the Bombers sign free agents to fill every hole on their roster.
This year, however, the Yanks have relied heavily on second baseman Robinson Cano and starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, two youngsters brought up from Triple-A Columbus to play a major part in the team's first half.
In addition to Cano and Wang, the Yankees called up Melky Cabrera, a 20-year-old who played just nine games at Triple-A, to start in center field this week.
All of these moves have given hope to the young players in New York's farm system, including Kevin Thompson, who is representing the club at Sunday's Futures Game at Comerica Park.
"Every year, when somebody young would get called up, you'd hope that they would do well so people would see that us young guys were here," Thompson said. "Now, everybody is going to the park every day thinking you could be next."
Thompson wasn't even scheduled to play in the game on All-Star Sunday, but he got the nod on Friday after Cabrera was called up to the Majors.
Thompson, who plays both left and center field, is the oldest player in the event, the only one born in the 1970s. The 25-year-old is having a superb season, as he hit .329 with 12 homers, 43 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 81 games for Double-A Trenton before being promoted to Columbus. In seven games with the Clippers, Thompson is hitting .296 with one homer, two RBIs and four steals.
Selected in the 31st round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Thompson has spent six years in the organization. He has always been a threat on the bases, stealing 63 bags in 2003, splitting his time between Trenton and Class A Tampa. But his power has improved over the years, and his 12 homers this season have already eclipsed his single-season high.
"It's all about staying healthy," Thompson said. "I had a good year in the Florida State League a couple of years ago, then I got hurt. I came back, had elbow surgery last year, played through that. If you stay healthy and play the game, things will take care of themselves."
When Cabrera was called up by the Yankees this week, it opened the door for Thompson to play in the Futures Game, something he calls a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"It's good stuff, man," he said after taking batting practice with his teammates. "When you get this opportunity, you have to take it and do something with it."
Thompson had a chance to shoot the breeze with Royals legend George Brett, who is managing the USA team in the game.
"He's a Hall of Famer, a living legend," Thompson said. "You get some tips from him, they can't do anything but help you. I'm going to try to enjoy every minute of it."
When he gets back to Columbus this week, Thompson will get back to business, trying to show the organization that he can help the big league club in the same way that his friends have.
"You always have to look at it that way. That's what you're playing for," Thompson said. "Hopefully I can roll through the rest of the season, finish strong and make an impression."
Cano and Wang are potential Rookie of the Year candidates, and the Yanks hope that Cabrera can help fill the defensive void that has been in center field all season. Thompson is happy for his friends' success, but he would really like to join them in the Bronx at some point.
"Those guys were playing with us a second ago, and now they're in the Majors," [the Yankees are] taking a different route [by playing their own prospects]. People are starting to take notice, so you have to play hard all the time.
"I think I can contribute to the Yankees," he added. "If they need me, I'm here."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.