Liddi enjoys atmosphere of third Futures Game
Fellow Mariners prospect Paxton hurls scoreless inning
PHOENIX -- Alex Liddi was nearly the last player to show up for the World Team photo in the outfield at Chase Field on Sunday, though it wasn't because the Mariners prospect was out of sorts and looking for direction.
If anything, Liddi, the 22-year-old third baseman for Triple-A Tacoma, the Mariners' top Minor League affiliate, could have provided direction and guidance for his teammates for the day, given his XM All-Star Futures Game pedigree.
On Sunday, Liddi played in his third Futures Game in as many seasons. Liddi, a native of San Remo, Italy, joined another Seattle top prospect, pitcher James Paxton, on the World Team roster.
"It is fun coming here, because you know what to expect ... especially the atmosphere," said Liddi, who also played in previous games in St. Louis and last July in Anaheim before getting the start at third base for the World Team on Sunday.
"But each season the players in the game are different, so that always makes it exciting."
Liddi went 0-for-3 but made a nice barehanded throw to first base in the second inning to get an out on a slow roller by Gary Brown.
Paxton retired all three US hitters he faced in the third inning, getting Nationals prospect Bryce Harper on a ground ball to end the inning.
At some point, the Mariners hope that Liddi, who turns 23 next month, graduates from the Futures Game to the real All-Star Game, but first they want him to conquer Triple-A for a full season.
So far, Liddi's first run in the Pacific Coast League -- a league with a reputation as being high on offense -- has been a mixed bag, as he has 17 home runs, 24 doubles and 61 RBIs. But Liddi is also hitting .257 after a rough June (.229) with 110 strikeouts in 346 at-bats.
"You're always trying to get better, and I feel like I am," Liddi said. "I want to cut down on my strikeouts. I think I'm doing a better job."
Liddi said he's learned a lot from playing in a league filled with veteran players -- not just from facing pitchers with Major League experience, but learning how to carry himself in a clubhouse that includes players who have been where he wants to go.
"We've faced a lot of guys who have experience playing in the big leagues, and guys who have been around the big leagues for a long time. So you learn a lot from them or facing them," Liddi said.
While Liddi, who signed with the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent at the age of 17, has had a progressive climb through Seattle's farm system, the way Paxton has climbed through the system has been meteoric.
Paxton, who is from Richmond, British Columbia, was drafted in the fourth-round of the 2010 Draft. He didn't sign until this past March, and went 3-3 with a 2.73 ERA in Class A Clinton.
Paxton bypassed the California League for Double-A Jacksonville recently. He allowed two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his only start there on July 3 before he headed to Phoenix for the Futures Game.
Paxton originally was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2009 with the 37th overall pick after his junior year at the University of Kentucky. But he and his advisor, Scott Boras, couldn't reach a deal with the Blue Jays.
Paxton returned to Kentucky, but there was a dispute with the NCAA about the role that Boras had in his negotiations, and he was ruled ineligible.
The Mariners believe both Liddi and Paxton could play prominent roles in their plans for the 2012 season.