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McKenzie eyes family affair at Futures Game

No. 2 prospect will represent Tribe, along with catcher Mejia
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Triston McKenzie's hometown is roughly an hour's drive north of Marlins Park in Miami. That made his being named to the 2017 SiriusXM Futures Game not only an honor for the Indians prospect, but an opportunity for him to pitch in front of some family and friends.

"I'm expecting a couple people to come out," McKenzie said.

CLEVELAND -- Triston McKenzie's hometown is roughly an hour's drive north of Marlins Park in Miami. That made his being named to the 2017 SiriusXM Futures Game not only an honor for the Indians prospect, but an opportunity for him to pitch in front of some family and friends.

"I'm expecting a couple people to come out," McKenzie said.

Just a couple?

"Parents. Grandparents. My brother. Uncles. Close friends. Coaches," he continued with a laugh.

:: 2017 Futures Game coverage ::

McKenzie (United States) will join Indians catching prospect Francisco Mejia (World) at this year's Futures Game, which will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 4 p.m. ET today from Marlins Park. It will be a chance for a national audience to get a look at the club's No. 1 (Mejia) and No. 2 (McKenzie) prospects, as ranked by MLBPipeline.com.

This is the first trip to the Futures Game for the 19-year-old McKenzie and the second invitation in a row for Mejia. On the active Major League roster, the Tribe has Futures Game alumni in Lonnie Chisenhall (2010), Edwin Encarnacion (2003-05), Jason Kipnis (2011), Francisco Lindor (2012-14), Carlos Santana (2009) and Bradley Zimmer (2015).

It's a nice little compliment to him," Minor League pitching coordinator Ruben Niebla said. "We're happy for him to be able to experience that and experience it with his family. It's a nice feeling to know that you are recognized industry-wide. Hopefully, he has a good time and he enjoys it.

"I've coached in two of those. It's as close to a Major League experience that you can have as a ballplayer."

McKenzie -- listed at 6-foot-5 and 165 pounds -- was selected in the first round (42nd overall) out of Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High School in the 2015 Draft, and the right-hander has been cruising up the organizational ladder. McKenzie has overpowered hitters at Class A Advanced Lynchburg this season and could be ticketed for Double-A before the summer is over.

Facing Class A competition that is nearly four years older than him on average, McKenzie has posted a 2.91 ERA with 115 strikeouts and 32 walks in 89 2/3 innings (16 starts) this year. With a three-pitch arsenal (four-seamer, curveball and changeup), McKenzie has limited batters to 60 hits and a .187 average. He has three double-digit strikeout games, including a 14-strikeout performance against Carolina on May 9.

In his most recent start, McKenzie took the hill on Independence Day and struck out 11 in seven innings against Wilmington. He allowed three hits, one unearned run and no walks.

"To be consistent, it's using all three of my pitches," McKenzie said. "Early on, and especially last year, I was kind of a two-pitch guy. I'd use my fastball and my curveball the majority of the time. I think introducing my changeup more into my game, and using it more often than I was, it allowed me to go deeper into games, and I think it just opened me up and made me a better pitcher overall."

Niebla echoed McKenzie's self-assessment.

When McKenzie first broke into the Indians' farm system, the organization worked with him on altering aspects of his lower half to alleviate some issues with his old across-the-body throwing motion. Once some of those kinks were ironed out -- helping the pitcher locate better to both sides of the plate -- Niebla said one of the main goals this season was to continue to hone his changeup.

"Little by little, we see that process heading in the right direction," Niebla said. "There's been a maturity process that has happened here in the last couple years that has turned in a positive direction. Although we still have time to go, I think we're in a good spot with him overall."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

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