Lakewood's All-Stars

Posted: June 21, 2013

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - For many of the 59 players participating in the 2013 South Atlantic All-Star Game this week, it was their first opportunity to show their skills on a big stage.

Four players from the Phillies' Class A Lakewood BlueClaws represented their home team Tuesday at FirstEnergy Park. Following a nearly 3-hour rain delay, the Northern Division defeated the Southern Division, 2-1, in the 34th meeting between the teams.

Catcher Chace Numata and relief pitchers Yoel Mecias, Steven Inch and Delvi Francisco were the four Phillies prospects chosen to represent the North.

"They are all very deserving," BlueClaws manager Mickey Morandini said. "Any time you can host an event like this and have some players on the team as well, it's a good feeling."

While each BlueClaws player shares the desire to one day play in Philadelphia, each understands that it will not come before first learning the game at the Class A level.

Numata, 20, was in the starting lineup for the North. The Hawaii native said it was an honor he will never forget.

"I haven't been an All-Star since Little League so it's pretty big for me,'' said Numata, who was 0-for-1 in the game. "Being able to play with all these other power hitters, good pitchers and position players is awesome.''

In 49 games this season, Numata is batting .254 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 24 RBI.

Throughout his high school career, Numata was a shortstop who also saw time as a pitcher. He was selected in the 14th round of the 2010 draft. When he arrived at Lakewood, he was switched to catcher.

"I always thought [Numata] was a second baseman but when we brought him in, the coaches saw something in him and at the time we needed some catching in the organization," Morandini said. "He took it very well and has come a long way in such a short period of time."

Speaking for the three Lakewood relievers, Mecias said, "We are just happy to be here and to be representing Lakewood. It's great for the fans and the experience is exciting."

In the shortened, seven-inning game, Inch and Mecias combined for a scoreless top of the fifth. Inch threw one pitch to record a fly out while Mecias recorded a strikeout to end the inning.

Inch, 22, known primarily for his sinker, is 1-3 with a 5.61 ERA and leads the BlueClaws with 24 appearances out of the bullpen. Hailing from Canada, Inch said Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay has been a role model for him because of his work ethic and attitude toward the game.

"It is pretty tough to be as hard of a worker as [Halladay] is, but I try to be," Inch said. "I think working hard is what allows you to advance through the system. I have a really good support system at Lakewood with [pitching coach] Aaron Fultz and all of the coaches make us feel very comfortable."

Venezuelan-born pitcher Mecias, 19, has been a reliable option for Morandini out of the bullpen. Mecias is 4-2 with a 3.71 ERA, featuring what Morandini referred to as a "Cole Hamels-like changeup." Mecias leads all BlueClaws with 62 strikeouts and just 24 walks.

In the sixth inning, Francisco, 20, became the final Lakewood player to enter the game. He allowed a single before recording the inning's final out. On the season, Francisco is 1-2 with a 2.90 ERA.

The four All-Stars hope to one day make it to the big leagues. For now, though, they will focus on finishing the second half of the season strong.

"Inch has a big-league sinker, Francisco has a big-league slider, Mecias is a lefty with a big-league changeup, and as long as Chace continues to improve defensively, he too has a chance," Morandini said. "As far as I'm concerned, I could see them all in the big leagues someday."

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