Jesse Sanchez

Huang rises to stage in Futures Game

Taiwanese right-hander fires two-thirds of an inning; outfielder Brito also represents D-backs

Huang rises to stage in Futures Game

CINCINNATI -- Almost a year ago, Wei-Chieh Huang was pitching in obscurity at a famous college in Taiwan. On Sunday, he suited up for the World and shined.

"In some ways, the game is not much different than Taiwan, but the pace here is so much faster," Huang, 21, said through translator Steve Lin. "I'm motivated to keep up."

Huang, who is pitching at Class A Kane County, and Double-A Mobile outfielder Socrates Brito represented the D-backs in the World dugout in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Great American Ball Park, a 10-1 loss to the U.S squad.

"This is a special, and you feel like a big leaguer for a day," Brito, 22, said. "There are over 1,000 players in the Minor Leagues, and to be selected is incredible."

Huang retired the only two batters he faced in the fourth inning with a steady dose of changeups and fastballs in the 90-92 mph range. Brito finished 0-for-1 in the game.

"This entire experience is good for them," D-backs Minor League field coordinator Tony Perezchica said. "Just being around elite players in their leagues and the guys they will see getting to the big leagues is very valuable."

It's already been quite a journey for Huang.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 46 2/3 innings for the Cougars in his first professional season. He has 48 strikeouts and nine walks.

"It's his first year and he's handled himself pretty well. His record and numbers indicate that," Perezchica said. "He locates the ball well and he has an unbelievable changeup. He's very calm on the mound and he knows how to pitch. He doesn't let a lot of stuff bother him and he throws strikes."

Huang began playing baseball during elementary school, primarily as a position player, and didn't start throwing off the mound on a consistent basis until he was a junior at Kao-Yuan Tech High School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He pitched out of the bullpen in college at the National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sport, in part because of a back injury, and later resumed his role as a starter.

Huang signed with the D-backs on July 18, 2014.

"The hitters in Taiwan are not as good and the U.S. hitters. There's more power here," he said. "You don't need to have great command in Taiwan and you can basically throw in the middle of the zone. Here in the United States, you throw in middle of the zone and they'll hit home runs. I'm working on my fastball command."

As for Brito, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound outfielder from the Dominican Republic is hitting .269 with three home runs and 29 RBIs in 80 games for Mobile. He has struck out 51 times. Overall, he is hitting .282 with 20 home runs and 216 RBIs in 483 games since signing with the D-backs in 2010 at age 17.

Brito caught the attention of the organization with a strong Spring Training and continues to be a player to watch.

"I've had some moments where I've struggled, but I'm happy with how the season is going," Brito said. "Right now, I'm working on swinging on pitches in the strike zone. I'm still aggressive. I'm just not swinging at bad pitches."

A better approach will serve Brito well.

"His bat will dictate where he will go. Now he's in Mobile, which is a tough ballpark, good for pitchers and hard for hitters," Perezchica said. "But I tell Brito, 'If you can hit in Mobile, you can hit in the big leagues. You still have to produce, but guys like Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Ender Inciarte have hit in that stadium.'"

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.