Futures southpaw comes home

Futures southpaw comes home

SAN FRANCISCO -- Standing in front of the home dugout at AT&T Park, Indians prospect Chuck Lofgren could point out the spots where he and his friends once spent many a summer day.

"I've been to this park a bunch of times," said Lofgren, a native of nearby Redwood City, Calif. "Me and my friends used to hang out here and eat Dippin' Dots behind the center-field scoreboard and watch Barry Bonds hit homers into the Cove. I grew up a huge Giants fan."

Lofgren was also quite fond of the garlic fries sold in the ballpark's concessions.

"You've got to try them," he said adamantly. "Your breath will smell like garlic for a week, but it's worth it."

Even longer-lasting than that garlic breath are the memories Lofgren will take with him from his return to the Bay Area for the 2007 All-Star Futures Game.

It is honor enough to be selected as one of the game's brightest prospects, but the 21-year-old Lofgren enjoyed the added thrill of playing the game in a ballpark where he's used to being a fan.

On Sunday, the fans were cheering Lofgren's name.

"I probably have close to 100 or more people here who know me or have at least heard my name," he said.

Indians fans might want to get to know the left-handed Lofgren's name, as he's one of the more promising pitchers in the club's farm system.

Taken in the fourth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft out of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., Lofgren tied for the Minor League baseball lead with 17 wins for Class A Kinston last season. His 2.82 ERA and 125 strikeouts ranked second in the Carolina League.

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This season, Lofgren has been making the adjustment to Double-A competition at Akron, where he's gone 8-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 16 starts. He's been working on more consistently commanding his slider in a repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball.

"I've had a couple rough patches," he said. "But every time you move up a level, you're going to have that. I've had some good learning experiences. Lately, things have been going real well and I hope to take that into the second half."

Of course, Lofgren will need full use of his left hand to do so. And he had a scary -- actually, it's better described as humorous -- moment involving that hand before Sunday's game. While standing in the U.S. team's dugout, he reached up to rest his hands on a ledge near the ceiling, only to find he had mistakenly grabbed onto an active dugout heater.

"Lofgren out with third-degree burns," he joked.

He recovered from the incident in time to work the second inning of the Futures Game, in which he worked a scoreless second inning.

That put a fine cap on what was a happy homecoming for Lofgren.

"My first day back, I took a couple camera crews [from MiLB.com] around San Francisco," he said. "I took them on a trolley and down to Pier 39 to see the seals and Alcatraz. It's been a good time. [Saturday] night, we had a dinner for my friends and family."

And no, it did not consist of Dippin' Dots and garlic fries.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.