The Minnesota Twins were a bit short on All-Star caliber players this year when the midsummer classic rolled into Target Field. In the midst of another tough season, only Glen Perkins and Kurt Suzuki were selected to represent the Twins for the American League All-Star team. However, the Twins saw hope on the horizon as Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Jose Berrios, and Kennys Vargas were all asked to participate in the 2014 Sirius XM Futures Game.
For Berrios and Vargas, the invitation to the 2014 Futures Game was their first shot at putting their talents on display at a big time level. Berrios was recently promoted from Single-A Fort Myers prior to his trip to Target Field, while Kennys Vargas had been tearing up Double-A New Britain all season.
Jose Berrios has shot up the prospect boards, now ranking as high as 38th overall on MLB.com’s recently redone list. Vargas ranks 11th on the Minnesota Twins top 20 prospects list, one that is stuffed with high ceiling talent.
I had the opportunity to catch up with both of them in regards to their Futures Game experience, and find out what their first taste of Target Field was really like.
Puckett’s Pond: Pitching for the first time at Target Field, after just recently having been called up to Double-A New Britain, how did you mentally prepare for the size of this start?
Jose Berrios: It was a big experience for me, a blessing, to throw in front of the fans up in Minnesota. I knew I had to prepare like any other game and get myself ready to go out there to throw my inning. I just had to remind myself that it is still just the same game.
PP: With Target Field being known as more of a pitcher’s park, did you do any research on how the field may play behind you?
JB: I knew that I would be facing good hitters from all the different levels, so I was going to go out there and play me game; challenge them by throwing strikes and making my pitches.
PP: Can you describe the emotion of getting the starting nod in the Futures Game at what could be, in a very short matter of time, your home ballpark?
JB: Hopefully soon! It was a very exciting opportunity that I’ll never forget. My goal is to continue to work hard and get back up there soon.
PP: Finally, looking back at the weekend as a whole, what was your favorite experience?
JB: Everything. From talking with fans to hanging out with my family, being able to do everything at Target Field really was pretty awesome.
Moving from one side of the rubber to the other, here’s what Kennys Vargas had to say about his Futures Game experience:
Puckett’s Pond: Taking batting practice at Target Field prior to the Futures Game, what was your approach more about? Was it going out and making solid contact, or trying to get a feel for how the ballpark played?
Kennys Vargas: Definitely about going out and making contact, just so I could work on a few little things and prepare myself for the game.
PP: With no other first basemen on the roster for the World team, you were able to play all nine innings. What was the feeling like playing in front of the hometown crowd?
KV: That was really great. I got to play in front of guys like Tom Kelly and I wanted to make sure that I could do my best as a way of letting those guys know that I am working hard and will be ready to get that call up someday. (Which Twins fans now know, took place today)
PP: Your power swing is well documented, but the double you put off the wall also gave you a shot to show off your wheels a bit. Could you describe your approach at the plate?
KV: I’m always trying to get good timing on the fastballs and square up to hit the ball hard. For me, it is about making good contact so that I can drive the ball, especially with runners on base and in spots when I can really help my team.
PP: Lastly, while in Minneapolis over the weekend, what was your favorite experience during the All-Star festivities?
KV: I really enjoyed meeting with fans, especially the little kids. Another thing that I will remember as my first experience being up there, was visiting the home clubhouse and thinking that this will be my clubhouse for a lot of years to come. I am really excited for that.
With Kennys Vargas having received the call to come and play for the big league club, he has had quite a year. What started in New Britain, CT and has now brought him back to Target Field, Vargas will look to start what has the makings of a promising career.
For Berrios, a guy who has opened a ton of eyes this year, he too could be hearing his name receiving the same kind of call up in the next year.
Both guys give fans around Twins Territory a lot of reason to be excited for the future. Minnesota has long been a staple at the top of the American League Central, and while recent years haven’t produced that same results, it will be in names like Jose Berrios and Kennys Vargas that the Minnesota Twins reclaim their rightful crown.