Reed unfazed by Cal League setting

Royals No. 26 prospect takes lighthearted approach to All-Star start

Cody Reed ranks second in the Carolina League with a 2.14 ERA and third with 65 strikeouts. (Patrick Cavey/MiLB.com)

By Brian Sumers / Special to MiLB.com | June 24, 2015 12:09 AM

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- Cody Reed spent some time watching batting practice on Tuesday afternoon. That might have been a mistake since the wind was blowing out at LoanMart Field.

"I was seeing pop flies that were just carrying out," he said. "At our place [in Wilmington], those are just routine fly balls."

This is not a rare occurrence in the California League, where hitting statistics are often inflated by weather conditions. But it was new to Reed, the Royals' No. 26 prospect who was the starting pitcher for the Carolina League in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game.

Reed, who learned he would start on Monday night at the team hotel, had a simple game plan: keep the ball low and try to keep it on the ground. It worked, with the 22-year-old left-hander needing only 11 pitches to retire the side in a perfect first inning. Leadoff hitter Brett Phillips of Lancaster grounded out to second base, while Hunter Cole of San Jose and Cody Bellinger of Rancho Cucamonga struck out swinging.

One benefit is that few in the California League know Reed's repertoire. Had he pitched to Carolina League teammate Sam Travis of the Salem Red Sox, the result might have been different.

"I don't know how to get him out," Reed admitted. "I told him, 'If you're in the Home Run Derby, imagine I'm pitching and maybe you'll have a better chance.'"

Reed, a 2013 second-round pick, is having a strong season. In 13 appearances, including 10 starts, he's 5-5 with a 2.14 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings.

Usually, Reed prepares diligently, but on Tuesday night, it was all fun. Two hours before the game, he didn't even know who his catcher would be. And he had no scouting report on Cal League hitters.

"You just go out there and have fun, and if you get them out, you get them out," he said.

Back in a big game: Bellinger was participating in his first professional All-Star Game, but it was not his first time on a major stage. The Dodgers' 17th-ranked prospect was a member of the Chandler, Arizona, team that reached the 2007 Little League World Series.

His biography from the tournament is still posted online, giving his age (12), height (5-foot-1), and weight (87 pounds.) He turns 20 next month and checks in at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds. A 2013 fourth-round pick, Bellinger is hitting .273 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs for the Quakes.

The Quakes hosted the game, so Bellinger was a popular man Tuesday. It may have helped that Rancho Cucamonga captured the Cal League South Division first-half title.

"I came in here and there were like 50 guys who asked for my autograph," he said. "You are getting treated like a big leaguer. You're signing cards and people are taking pictures of you and taking selfies.

As for how the All-Star Game compared to the Little League World Series, Bellinger said that playing in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on national television might have been more of a thrill. But he was enjoying Tuesday.

"It's cool," he said. "I'm not on ESPN or anything, but this is what you play for, basically."

Playing for fun: Carolina League manager Tripp Keister of the Potomac Nationals wanted to win, but he wasn't planning to take things too seriously.

"Of course, you want to win, but you don't want to put anyone in jeopardy in terms of pitch counts," he said. "We are not going to hit and run and sacrifice bunt. I certainly don't want a guy who makes it to the big leagues and says one of the worst experiences in the Minor Leagues was that jerk from Potomac who had me sacrifice bunt in the All-Star Game in 2015."

Before the game, Keister spoke to other managers in the league. One important thing, he realized, was to make sure players had a chance to relax. The league takes three days off for the break, but the All-Stars had to fly to California.

"They need a break, too," Keister said "This is their All-Star break. I want to be conscious of their bodies so they can get a little rest as well."

Brian Sumers is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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