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SAS CITY -- Julio Rodriguez and Lisalverto Bonilla are, they say, like brothers. The two right-handers both pitch for the Double-A Reading Phillies. They're roommates. They both were on the World Team roster, representing their organization at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. They were born less than three months apart in 1990. They were both signed in 2008.
One big difference is that Bonilla, converted this season to a full-time relief role, has the kind of tools that grabs scouts' attention. Rodriguez doesn't exactly stand out, but he's proven his ability to retire hitters.
One more point of separation was that Rodriguez pitched Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, coming in with one out and runners on first and second in the bottom of the sixth.
After giving up a three-run homer to Nick Castellanos, he settled down and ended the inning on a groundout and a popup sandwiched around a walk. He started the seventh and gave up two more runs, one earned, in one-third of an inning.
Bonilla, from the Dominican Republic, was unavailable to participate after injuring his right thumb while horsing around with teammates Saturday night. He told MLB.com that X-rays did not reveal any broken bones, but his hand was badly swollen.
"It's unlucky, but sometimes things happen," he said. "We were just being young men and messing around. I can't pitch, but what can you do? It was an accident. It's too bad."
It's too bad because he missed what could have been something of a coming-out party. Until this season, he wasn't routinely mentioned among the Phillies' best prospects; the Phillies even listed his first name as "Lisalberto" in the media guide. Now he's ranked No. 12 in the system by MLB.com.
He began to establish himself last season at Class A Lakewood, became a full-time reliever this year and was promoted to Reading after a fast start at Class A Advanced Clearwater. Overall he's allowed 31 hits in 46 1/3 innings and posting a 1.55 ERA. He has three plus pitches in the making.
Rodriguez, by contrast, features a 65-mph curve. His slider is around 77, and his fastball averages 88-89. That doesn't impress anybody until they notice that he has a 1.13 WHIP and has struck out 449 batters in 395 2/3 innings in his five-year pro career.
"We call his pitches invisi-balls," Clearwater pitching coach Dave Lundquist said. "The thing with him is that the deception is so great in his delivery, to where it's hard to pick the ball up. A lot of times the hitters don't pick the ball up until it's halfway there or already by them. That's one thing you can't teach, that natural deception. You look at the other guys who do have better stuff. But [deception] has given him a lot of success."
Rodriguez, from Puerto Rico, laughed when asked about the other pitchers in the Futures Game. "Everybody throws hard here. Everybody throws 98 or 99. I'm just going to throw my curveball," he said.
"You don't have to throw hard to get guys out. I just keep doing my job. I just do the best I can every time. When you throw hard, it's easier to get noticed. That calls attention to you. This way is a little bit harder."
Getting picked for the Futures Game, though, is a pretty good indication that people are starting to notice.
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