CEDAR RAPIDS — Mitch Keller turned out to get the bonus prize.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate not only got to throw in Sunday’s MLB Futures Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., he was the starting pitcher for the United States team in the prestigious event, held in conjunction with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
“A huge honor,” Keller told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When I found out yesterday, it was really cool. I didn’t know if I was going to start or not. But when I found out, I was really excited about the opportunity.”
Keller is considered the top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. He recently was promoted to Triple-A, meaning he is on the doorstep of the big leagues.
He was one of 50 players invited to the Futures Game, retiring the three hitters he faced on just 14 pitches. That included a strikeout of leadoff man Luis Alejandro Basabe.
“It’s always nice to see yourself get three outs, especially against some of the better guys in the minor leagues,” Keller told the Post-Gazette.
Former Cedar Rapids Kernels players Alex Kirilloff and Lewis Thorpe also participated in the Futures Game, which was won by the U.S. Team, 10-6, over the World Team. Outfielder Kirilloff, who spent the first half of this season with the Kernels, started and went 2-for-2 with a run scored for the United States Team.
One of his two singles came against Thorpe, who gave up four runs in 2/3 innings. Thorpe pitched in Cedar Rapids in the 2014 season and is with Double-A Chattanooga in the Minnesota Twins farm system.
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