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Mets stockpile 26 pitchers in draft

Mets stockpile 26 pitchers in draft

NEW YORK -- The Mets scouting and player development people emerged from their draft room on the fourth floor of Shea Stadium early enough Tuesday to see confirmation of what they already knew. Good pitching beats good hitting, and dominant pitching overwhelms mediocre batting orders.

Some six hours before Pedro Martinez began his bid -- it was ultimately unsuccessful -- for the first no-hitter in franchise history, the Mets had used the ninth selection in the First-Year Player Draft to choose the kind of pitcher they believe will develop into a dominant big league starter.

No one was comparing Mike Pelfrey with Martinez, of course. But in Pelfrey, the 21-year-old right-handed pitcher who has made his amateur mark with Wichita State University, the Mets had drafted a front-of-the-rotation arm to go along with Philip Humber, their first-round selection in 2004.

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The emphasis was on pitching Tuesday and Wednesday, as well. Nine of the other 15 players the Mets selected on the draft's first day were pitchers. And they chose 16 pitchers in the final 32 rounds Wednesday.

They finished with 26 pitchers, three left-handed, and nine from scholastic programs.

"We always emphasize pitching," Gary LaRocque, the Mets vice president of player development and scouting, said. "For eight or nine years now we have."

After the extended workday Wednesday, LaRocque came away quite pleased.

"We usually sign about 25 of the 50 [48 this year] players we pick," he said. "But this year, because we have three short-season rosters to fill, we probably will sign more. We can go deeper into the players we've picked and give more opportunities."

The three short-season teams are the Brooklyn Cyclones, who will be managed by Mookie Wilson; the Gulf Coast Mets, to be managed by Gary Carter and the Kingsport Mets to be helmed by Jesse Levis.

The three managers were in the Mets' draft room Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning to familiarize themselves with the personnel. Their seasons begin this month.

The Mets had no selections in the second and third rounds -- part of the price they paid for having signed Martinez and Carlos Beltran as free agents in December. They selected an 18-year-old high school second baseman, Hector Pellot, in the fourth round and catcher Andrew Butera, son of former big league catcher Sal Butera, in the fifth.

They chose another big league son Wednesday, taking 22-year-old infielder Anthony Manuel, son of first base coach Jerry, in the 45th round.

The club's other draft credo is to "take the best player available." And when the best player available is a pitcher, the Mets are delighted.

That was the case in the first round Tuesday. Six position players and two other pitchers -- left-hander Ricky Romero of Cal State Fullerton and Wade Townsend, formerly of Rice -- were selected before the Mets got their hands on Pelfrey. So they were bucking a trend.

But nine of their subsequent 13 selections Tuesday were spent on pitching:

Gregory Cain, an 18-year-old right-hander from Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., in the sixth round; left-hander Jonathon Neise, 18, from Defiance High School in Defiance, Ohio in the seventh round; right-hander Robert Pernell, 20, from Charleston Southern University in the ninth round; right-hander Ryan Zimmerman, 20, from Salt Lake Community College in Utah in the 12th round; right-hander Ian Marshall, 18, from Gaithersburg High School in Maryland in the 14th round; right-hander Daniel Martin, 18, from Harleton High School in Texas in the 15th round; left-hander Erik Domague, 20, from Alvin Community College in Texas in the 16th round; right-hander Pedro Beato, 18, from Xaverian High School in Queens, N.Y. (the home of Shea Stadium) in the 17th round and right-hander Eric Brown, 20, from Wingate College in Hamlet, N.C. in the 18th round.

The other players chosen by the Mets included three catchers -- Sean McGraw, 20, of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas in the eighth round; Luiz Martinez, 20, of Jackson State Community College in Miami in the 11th and Joshua Thole, an 18-year-old left-handed hitter from Mater Dei High in Breese, Ill. -- and one outfielder, Courtney Billingslea, 20, of Sinclair Community College in Alabama.

Two of the players -- Niese and Beato -- were born the same day the Mets won the World Series. And another, Thole, was born the following day.

Overall, the club took 16 high school players, 24 college players and eight junior college players.

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

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