DETROIT -- Troy Patton had no idea he was the subject of a running joke in Houston.

It's not mean-spirited, of course. It's just that Astros manager Phil Garner loves this 19-year-old left-hander and talks about him often, mostly to general manager Tim Purpura. Garner can often be heard saying things, "That Patton kid sure is putting up good numbers. Wonder how he'd do up here."

Purpura was only semi-joking when he said Garner wasn't allowed to talk about Patton for two more years. Patton is progressing well, but Purpura, a former farm system director, is all about developing young talent at a slow, steady, productive pace.

It's likely Patton will be legally allowed to purchase alcoholic beverages before he's in the big leagues. But every once in a while, reporters will throw Patton's name out there, just to rile up the Houston skipper.

Patton's eyes widened a bit when he heard about this for the first time as he was standing in the dugout at Comerica Park about an hour before the All-Star Futures Game.

"That's very flattering," he said. "That's pretty awesome. I never would expect anything like that."

Sometimes, the world of Major League Baseball players (and on occassion, their egos) can get tiresome by this time of the season.

That's one of many reasons why the All-Star Futures Game is so refreshing. Wide-eyed and hungry, the top Minor League prospects are invited to play in a big-league ballpark, which is a first for almost all of these players.

Patton was as awestruck as you would expect from someone still in his teens who is experiencing the All-Star chaos for the first time.

"This is amazing," he said. "A while ago, I just saw [ESPN's] Peter Gammons in the locker room. And Tommy Lasorda, just walking around. It was amazing. I never could have imagined that something like this would happen so soon."

There is reason for Astros fans to be as excited over Patton as he is over the Futures Game hooplah. In his second professional season, the left-hander was off and running at low Class A Lexington, averaging over a strikeout per inning. He compiled a 5-2 record with a 1.94 ERA, logging 94 strikeouts over 79 innings.

He will resume his season at High A Salem, although he has yet to play for the Avalanche because of a case of tendinitis that briefly landed him on the disabled list.

Patton was recently cleared to start throwing again, and he got through a bullpen session without any problem. But his Futures Game pitching coach, Memphis' Dyar Miller, wasn't sure he wanted to take a chance by throwing Patton into Sunday's game. Regardless, there was no way Patton was going to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to be in the dugout with the U.S. team. Especially considering who's managing this team.

"My dad was actually freaking out about that," Patton said. "He said, 'You get to meet George Brett.'"

Plus, there's always the issue of Futures Game karma.

"Over 100 players that played in this game all-time have played in the All-Star game," he said. "So they must do a good job of scouting."