|Price is right for Tampa Bay with No. 1 pick|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 07 June 2007 22:11|
``We think this guy has all the ability to be a front of the rotation-type pitcher,'' scouting director R.J. Harrison said. ``Now it's just a matter of getting him signed, getting him in a uniform and getting him along that developmental process.''
Tampa Bay selected the hard-throwing Price with the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft Thursday. Harrison saw all 18 of the left-hander's appearances for Vanderbilt this season, and knew Price was right for the Devil Rays.
``You don't want to be too premature on something like this because I think you become closed-minded,'' Harrison said. ``We didn't want to put blinders on to the rest of the field.''
As it turned out, Price turned the competition for the top pick into a one-man race. He went 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and Division I-leading 194 strikeouts in his junior season for the Commodores. The Devil Rays already envision him as a major part of their future.
``This is something that takes time sometimes. I completely understand that,'' Price said. ``I'm going to do anything Tampa Bay wants me to do. ... If it takes me five years to get to the big leagues, and they think I'm ready after that fifth year, that's fine too.''
If he pitches the way he did in college, Price won't have to wait nearly that long. Projected as a future bog league ace, Price has a fastball in the mid-90s and mixes it well with an outstanding slider and changeup.
``I knew that I had the talent to be that type of player,'' Price said. ``So, I just had to put the talent and the mental game together.''
He certainly did that, and then some. Price became the fourth left-hander taken with the top pick, and first since Brien Taylor went to the New York Yankees in 1991.
The first round of the draft was televised live from an actual site for the first time after being held strictly by conference call in previous years. About 400-500 fans were at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando, Fla. Commissioner Bud Selig was in attendance, along with some of baseball's biggest names, such as Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Dave Winfield, Darryl Strawberry and Tom Lasorda.
``You look at this draft today, and look at the coverage today, it's really remarkable,'' Selig said. ``Think how the draft used to be conducted when I first got into baseball in 1970. We've come a long way. This is the way it's supposed to be.''
With the second pick, Kansas City took power-hitting California high school infielder Mike Moustakas. The Chicago Cubs went with California high school third baseman Josh Vitters at No. 3; Clemson lefty Daniel Moskos then went to Pittsburgh; and Baltimore selected Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters with the fifth pick.
Each team had 5 minutes to make its first-round pick - and the Devil Rays took all of their allotted time, even though they've known they wanted Price since they secured the No. 1 selection in October. It was the third time in franchise history the Devil Rays had the top pick, and first since they took outfielder Delmon Young in 2003.
After taking left-hander Luke Hochevar with the first pick last year and third baseman Alex Gordon at No. 2 two years ago, Kansas City went with another slugging infielder. Moustakas, California's career high school home run leader with 52, hit a state-record 24 this season while leading Chatsworth High to the city title.
``I met with a couple of the guys that are part of the organization,'' he said. ``They made me feel like I was a part of the team already. And I just wanted to be part of like a family. So this is the kind of team I wanted to be a part of.''
Moustakas' teammate, third baseman Matt Dominguez, went to Florida 10 picks later and made the duo the highest-drafted set of high school teammates ever chosen in the same year.
Vitters hit .360 with nine homers and 29 RBIs for Cypress High School, despite missing two weeks with pneumonia. He was at the draft site and became the first in the event's history to shake hands with Selig and pose with his new team's cap and jersey.
``This was really important - a once in a lifetime opportunity,'' Vitters said. ``I'm glad to be part of it. There's definitely some electricity, especially before I got picked. My heart was racing.''
Moskos moved from his role as closer to starter midway through the season. He was just 3-5 with a 2.91 ERA heading into the super regionals, but has three potentially dominant pitches.
``We see him helping our major league staff in the near future,'' Pirates scouting director Ed Creech said.
Wieters, a 6-foot-5 catcher, is outstanding defensively and hit .358 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs this season.
``I would say he was the best college hitter in the draft,'' said Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations.
The draft went five rounds - including a 34-pick sandwich round - on Thursday and was scheduled to resume Friday and last 50 rounds.
AP Sports Writers Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla.; David Ginsburg in Baltimore; Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh; and Doug Tucker in Kansas City, Mo.; and freelance writer Mark Didtler in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., contributed to this report.