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Prospects build confidence vs. big league stars

Friedrichs stops Trout; Dixon, Sciortino solve Cy Young winners
Kyle Friedrichs has 55 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings for Stockton, including one against two-time AL MVP Mike Trout. (Ben Sandstrom/
August 2, 2017

With his heart picking up pace, Kyle Friedrichs took a deep breath. After sailing two pitches out of the strike zone against a rehabbing superstar, the Athletics prospect needed to step off the mound."'Man, this is Mike Trout. Just accept it and get back to work,'" he thought to himself."So

With his heart picking up pace, Kyle Friedrichs took a deep breath. After sailing two pitches out of the strike zone against a rehabbing superstar, the Athletics prospect needed to step off the mound.
"'Man, this is Mike Trout. Just accept it and get back to work,'" he thought to himself.
"So I accepted it, just threw a fastball right down the middle and he took it -- thank God -- and we went from there."

Growing up in the Southern California beach community of San Clemente, Friedrichs would watch Angels games with his dad, Charles. On July 5, the Friedrichs family got to watch the two-time American League MVP with their son in person. Though this time, the 6-foot-1 hurler was pitching against him for Class A Advanced Stockton.
Trout was a late addition to the lineup that day, so the Long Beach State product quickly tried to study the outfielder's strengths and weaknesses before the game.
"He has a lot more strengths than weaknesses, let's put it that way," he said.

With the majority of cameras likely pointed toward the batter's box, rather than the mound -- including the one held by Charles Friedrichs -- the right-hander induced a first-inning groundout before facing Trout once again in the fifth. This time, the six-time All-Star worked the count full before Friedrichs struck him out.
"The key is I got really lucky. I got ahead with two fastballs away that came out of the outer half and it caught him off guard," he said. "I threw a 2-1 fastball on the outer half and it looked like he was ready for it, but he didn't want to swing at it, so I wanted to throw a changeup in the same spot.
"So I did it and instead of it doing its normal action, it cut about six inches. He swung right through it, stood at home plate and was just like, 'What the heck just happened?'"
And the feeling was mutual after the punchout.
"I was in shock," Friedrichs said with a laugh.
Although Trout's stature in both physical size and name is daunting, Friedrichs did what many Minor Leaguers have to do against big league rehabbers -- treat them like anyone else.
"I know they obviously have had highly successful careers and have been playing forever and making millions of dollars," said David Fischer, who faced rehabbing Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. "But you have to remember [to] think about executing what you want to do on the mound, pitching to them and stick to your plan instead of being in shock and awe of the fact that you're playing against someone at such a high class or a high-caliber player. If you get caught up thinking about that sort of stuff, you're not going to have any success."
While pitching for Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Fischer got the All-Stars to go a combined 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on May 22 -- though it didn't start out that way. In the first inning, when Donaldson came up to the plate, the University of Connecticut product, who was released by the Twins on Tuesday, couldn't help but stare.
Thinking about telling his friends that he faced the 2015 American League MVP and how cool it was, Fischer's pitch went where his eyes were as he plunked Donaldson.
"Lucky I didn't hurt him," said Fischer. "And then I think Tulowitzki was the next guy up and I ended up walking him because I was probably a little bit tentative. I was like, 'Oh crap, I just drilled the other guy.'"
Aside from internal jitters, sometimes the pressure of facing a Major Leaguer comes externally, like it did for Nick Sciortino, who faced Dallas Keuchel on July 22. Boston's 2016 17th-round pick had an inbox full of sarcastic "Good lucks" from friends. Sciortino got the last laugh, however, when he ripped an RBI single off the 2015 Cy Young award winner for Class A Short Season Lowell.
"It means a good amount -- it's just something cool that this is a guy who's had so much success since he got into baseball and all the way up to the big leagues," the 22-year-old said. "Those big league guys, they have it all figured out and it's nice to look at them, watch them, how they go about their business. I was just fortunate enough to find a little hole in the outfield and it was a good experience."
But perhaps no one has had a better experience against a Major League rehabber than DJ Peters did. The Dodgers' No. 17 prospect slugged two solo shots off Madison Bumgarner in the same inning for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga on July 5.

In a "surreal" moment, Peters circled the 2014 World Series MVP, noticing his smiling teammates in the dugout at he passed third base.
"First off, it's Madison Bumgarner, and he's one of the best pitchers of the game," Peters said after the game. "He's a three-time World Series champion and basically single-handedly won the Giants the World Series in 2014. Whenever you face a guy like that, you want to enjoy the moment and gauge the situation you're in and the atmosphere. My whole mind-set was to just have fun because I got to face one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball."
Facing a big league stud can definitely have an effect on a Minor Leaguer, but not necessarily in the same way. For Sciortino, he had to put the gravity of facing Keuchel aside while facing him. And while Fischer's first inning may have seemed like the veterans hurt him, they ended up motivating him as he focused on getting them out on their next at-bats.
For Reds prospect Brandon Dixon, the effects of facing Major Leaguers live on after the final pitch is thrown. The Triple-A Louisville second baseman went 2-for-2 with a two-run double against David Price on May 24 and then went 1-for-2 against James Shields on June 13. Dixon was also able to steal bases against both aces.

"[It gives you] tons of confidence. [Price] has had the career he has for a reason. It's something you can take from and learn and grow and hopefully redo the next time you come to hit," Dixon said of the good at-bats. "It's just something that you definitely don't take for granted -- it's something that fuels you to hopefully make it to the next level and know that you can have success."
And while the Minor Leaguers are hopeful for a Major League rematch with the stars they faced in the lower levels, they can hold on to the at-bat or two they won.
"It's a sign. It's a positive. The year that I'm having, it's a little up and down, a little bit of a roller coaster," Friedrichs said. "And I can always go back to that and say, 'Hey, I struck out Mike Trout.' Yes, I got a little lucky, but it happened. And that's always a little mental edge that you need in this game."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.