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Jays stock up on 'power' arms
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06/04/2002 9:03 pm ET 
Jays stock up on 'power' arms
Pitching picks chock-full of potential
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com

David Bush, who was drafted last year but returned to school, went 8-1 with a school-best 13 saves this season. (courtesy Wake Forest University)
TORONTO -- True to their word, the Blue Jays focused on pitching on the first day of the First-Year Player Draft. The Jays got an infielder with their top pick, before filling out a draft card heavy on amateur arms.

Seven of Toronto's first nine picks were used on pitchers, including four straight college pitchers, each of whom have high ceilings.

"We hit college pitching that we think can help us," said JP Ricciardi, Toronto's general manager. "All the arms are hitting 92-95 [mph], some guys hitting 96. Power arms that we don't have in the system -- hopefully this is going to help us build with what we're doing here."

In the second round, the team picked David Bush, a highly touted closer from Wake Forest. Bush, a senior, set school records for career appearances and saves. He was drafted in the fourth round last year, but he went back to school. This year, he went 8-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 13 saves. Baseball America tabbed him as the second-closest pitcher to making the Major Leagues.

"I'd say you're probably looking at [Bush serving as] a short guy," said Chris Buckley, Toronto's director of scouting. "I think, ultimately, his role will be at the end of the game."

The next two players both came from the same pitching staff -- Wichita State's. Toronto tabbed Justin Maureau and Adam Peterson from the Shockers. Maureau, a southpaw, was used mainly in relief this season. He posted a 4-3 record with a 2.45 ERA. He also had excellent stats in the strikeout-to-walk category -- 67 punchouts against only nine walks.

Peterson was an eighth-round draft choice by the Yankees in 2001, but he elected to return for his senior season. He went 9-3 with a 3.55 ERA.

"Maureau usually works in the 87-91 [mph] range with a well above-average curveball," Buckley said. "Peterson's a big, strong guy. Scouts saw him the other day at 96 miles per hour. Hopefully, down the line, we got a guy that's better than a fourth-rounder."

In the fifth round, the Jays snagged a legitimate power pitcher -- Chad Pleiness from Central Michigan. Pleiness, a three-year starter for his college basketball team, lead the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (13.5). Playing in the MAC conference, he went 6-3 with a 2.42 ERA. Opposing batters hit just .194 off him.

"He's not a kid that concentrated 100 percent on baseball," Buckley said. "Sometimes you get a guy like that out there and they improve very quickly. He's certainly a very good competitor."

Buckley went on to say that he saw Pleiness pitch in his conference tournament and that he liked what he saw.

"You hate to see guys that are limping into the finish line," he said. "He's one of those guys that's sprinting, getting better."

Jason Perry, the sixth-round selection, broke the pitching streak. He is projected as an outfielder, but he played mostly first base at Georgia Tech. This season, he hit .313 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs.

In the next three rounds, Toronto snagged three more pitchers. Two of them -- Brian Grant and Russell Savickas -- came straight out of high school. The other one, Christopher Leonard, played his college ball at Miami of Ohio.

Eric Arnold, the 10th-round pick, is a second baseman from Rice. The Jays made 12 more picks, with half of them coming from high schools or community colleges.

Aric Van Gaalen was one of those picks, a high school pitcher from Alberta, Canada. Van Gaalen is 6 feet 6 and still growing, and his dad is 6 inches taller. Buckley said that Van Gaalen was a little bit of a project.

"That's kind of like what Gary Glover looked like as a kid," Buckley said. "His coordination has to come together, and he's gotta be coached up a bit. It's there -- is it going to happen? I hope so, but I'm not going to bet my home on it."

Another notable name was Brad Hassey, the son of Ron Hassey, a longtime Major League catcher. The younger Hassey is a shortstop from the University of Arizona.

"We know an awful lot about him," Buckley said. "Our scout really likes the kid. Usually there's a reason you're good at something. This kid grew up on ballfields. His dad was good for a long time."

Spencer Fordin covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. He can be reached at spencer.fordin@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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