Thompson wins Futures battle against Moya
Right-hander earns victory for U.S. as Tigers prospects square off at Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jake Thompson became friends with fellow Tigers prospect Steven Moya while they were rehabbing together at Class A Advanced Lakeland a couple of years ago. Thompson had no interest in facing Moya in Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, and it had nothing to do with friendship.
"It's not that you don't want to face him," said Thompson, who struck out two in two-thirds of an inning for the victory in the U.S. Team's 3-2 win over the World Team at Target Field. "It's just if he puts a good swing on it and hits it, he's probably gonna hit it 480 feet."
By most estimates, Moya has hit a ball that far, and fairly recently. One of his 22 home runs for Double-A Erie this year not only left the cozy confines of Jerry Uht Park, but supposedly cleared the street behind right field and over the building on the other side of it. The SeaWolves had to use Google Maps to estimate it.
"He's got superhuman strength," Thompson said. "I've seen him hit some balls in batting practice that I'd venture to guess there's only a handful that can do what he can do."
Tom Kelly, the legendary former Twins manager leading the U.S. Team, did not care about organizational allegiances. When Moya stepped to the plate with two outs in the sixth inning, Kelly wasted no time signaling for Thompson, who didn't realize who he was facing until he saw Moya's 6-foot-6 frame looming in the box.
"We kind of smiled at each other when he stepped in," Thompson said.
They've never been teammates, though they could be soon if Thompson is promoted from Lakeland. Thompson, whose credentials include an impressive ability to keep the ball in the park -- just three home runs over 83 innings this year -- faced Moya, who has bolted up prospect rankings by sending balls out of the park.
As happens quite often in the Tigers' system, pitching won out. Moya swung and missed at Thompson's 91-mph two-seamer, fouled off a changeup, then took a breaking ball that dropped into the strike zone of the 6-foot-6 Moya for a called third strike.
Thompson called it a slider. Moya thought otherwise.
"He called it a slider? Because usually sliders go from ... it broke too much to be a slider," Moya said, marveling.
"It was fun," Thompson said. "I mean, the strikeout pitch may not have been a strike, but I'll definitely take it.
"I'll be honest. It'd have been one thing if I just reared back and threw a fastball by him. Then, I could talk a little trash to him. It wasn't a terrible stretch, but a stretch just a little bit."
Moya jumped on that remark when he heard about it.
"I know it wasn't a strike," he said. "He knows it. The umpire knows it. The catcher knows it. And I know it wasn't a strike."
When the U.S. Team rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning, Thompson was in line for the win. He faced one more batter in the seventh, striking out Astros prospect Domingo Santana, and called it a day.
Thompson threw just eight pitches, but likely won't soon forget the three he threw to Moya.
"You can't read too much into it, but I have the upper hand," Thompson said. "I'll wait to see if he says anything and then I'll think about bringing it up."
Moya, while giving him grief over strike three, was also ready to give him credit.
"I've been hearing he has been doing really good in the Florida State League, but I never expected he was that good," Moya said. "When I used to see him, he was just like a regular pitcher, but now he's gotten really better [with his] slider, curveball and fastball. And he's really aggressive to the plate, too. So congratulations to him."
Moya played the entire game, going 0-for-3 with a four-pitch walk and a groundout to first. He was nonetheless in good spirits afterwards.
"I got to spend the whole time in the game, and I had a really good experience," Moya said. "I enjoyed it."