Future D-backs make good use of big stage
First time in New York gives world better look at trio of prospects
NEW YORK -- Call it the Baby Snakes Take Manhattan. And they took Queens by storm.
For the three kids from the D-backs' organization picked to play for the U.S. Team in Sunday's 4-2 victory over the World Team in the SiriusXM Futures Game at Citi Field, it was their first time in New York.
Matt Davidson, a third baseman from Triple-A Reno, grew up in the Inland Empire, about an hour east of Los Angeles. Archie Bradley, a pitcher at Double-A Mobile, is from Muskogee, Okla. Chris Owings, a shortstop from the Reno Aces born in Charleston, S.C., was also on the squad.
Davidson hit a two-run homer and was named the game's MVP. Bradley pitched a scoreless third inning. And Owings was a whiz in the field after coming in as a defense replacement.
"It's amazing this first time in New York; it's a lot for me to take in," said Davidson, who was in the starting lineup, batting fifth. "It's certainly different. The cab rides are crazy. My family is here taking it all in, so it's definitely fun."
"I'm very excited to be here," said Bradley, who was selected by the D-backs in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft just four picks behind No. 3 Trevor Bauer, since traded to Cleveland. "The city is nice. It's big. It's an incredible thing for me to just to be here."
Davidson hit what turned out to be the deciding homer to left-center off Oakland prospect Michael Ynoa in the fourth inning and was immediately taken out of the game. Bradley pitched the third inning, easily retiring the three World Team players he faced without incident. Owings came on in the top of the fifth and made a fine over-the-shoulder grab, of a pop fly skied into short left field, before smoothly turning a couple of double plays.
The trio of youngsters are all top D-backs prospects.
Davidson was a supplemental pick in the first round of the 2009 Draft and might be miscast as a third baseman. He is batting .291 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 90 games for the Aces, but he said he was trying to grow at the position.
"It's been an adjustment year at Triple-A," said the 22-year-old Davidson. "I've probably learned the most this year, hitting-wise and defensively. Defensively, I know I started off defensively pretty rough at the start of the year, but it makes sense; it's only my second full season. Sometimes I see ground balls I've never seen before. I haven't been playing a lot there. But it's been fun. I've been getting better every day."
Davidson and Owings will be traveling from here directly back to Reno, where they are scheduled to appear in Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star Game. Davidson, who donated his helmet and batting gloves to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will take part in the Triple-A Home Run Derby on Monday night fresh from Sunday's homer heroics. Bradley said he was replaced on the roster for Wednesday's Southern League All-Star Game because he could not play in both places.
Davidson was thrilled with the full schedule.
"That's not a lot of time off," Davidson said. "But in the offseason, when you're working out, you say you want to be busy during the All-Star break. So I guess I got my wish. I'm pretty busy."
Bradley opened his season at advanced Class A Visalia and then made the jump to Mobile. He is a combined 8-4 with a 2.06 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings, covering 18 starts. A month shy of his 21st birthday, the right-hander is awaiting the next move up the Arizona organizational ladder.
The most important thing he has learned this season?
"Getting ahead on the count," Bradley said. "I've never understood how important that was until this year, starting an at-bat ahead with strike one. That controls everything. Your stuff becomes more playable. You get swing and miss stuff, instead of being behind in the count and having to throw 2-0 fastballs just trying to recoup."
Owings, now 21 and a native of Charleston, S.C., was also a supplemental pick of the D-backs in the first round of the 2009 Draft. He has been beating up Pacific Coast League pitching to the tune of a .353 batting average with 11 homers and 65 RBIs.
"This was awesome just to be here as part of the game," Owings said. "I've never been to New York before, so now I've seen Citi Field for the first time. I feel like everything is just amplified. You're just ready to go. New York? It's pretty exciting. We're staying right there by Grand [Central] Station. I walked to Time Square last night.
"I just tried to take it all in, you know?"
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.