Top pick Hiura signs, won't need surgery

Brewers announce signing of first-rounder Wednesday

Top pick Hiura signs, won't need surgery

MILWAUKEE -- Keston Hiura's professional career began Wednesday with great news for the Brewers' first-round Draft pick and his new team: He won't need elbow surgery.

"That was a big relief," said Hiura, a second baseman who was the consensus top college bat in this year's Draft but was limited to designated hitter duty during his junior season at UC Irvine over concerns about a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.

The Brewers liked the bat enough to draft Hiura ninth overall despite those concerns. After getting a positive result from an MRI and a physical exam, they signed him to what's Jim Callis reported was a $4 million bonus, just below the $4.57 million value assigned to that slot.

• Brewers' 2017 Draft picks

Hiura was scheduled to travel Thursday to the Brewers' rehab facility in Phoenix to begin a six-week throwing program. If that goes well, he will play games for the Brewers' rookie affiliate in the Arizona League before reporting to Class A Wisconsin.

"We believe we will see him in the field at some point this year," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "Time is on our side in this thing. We are in no rush, and so we will go at his pace."

Hiura has not thrown since re-injuring his elbow in the fall. He had a platelet rich plasma injection in January, and his advisors shared medical imaging with the Brewers and other clubs in an effort to be upfront about the player's health. After they drafted Hiura, Brewers medical officials were able to order a new MRI and compare it to ones from the onset of the injury last year.

The new scan showed significant improvement.

"The rest, plus the PRP, plus the rehab he was going through, it worked. That's really exciting," Stearns said. "Clearly, any time a player has had an injury with a particular body part in the past, there is enhanced risk going forward. But at this point, we are comfortable that a 'return to throw' program will be successful."

In 199 at-bats at Irvine this season, Hiura hit .442 with a 1.260 OPS and eight home runs. He had more walks (50) than strikeouts (38).

He was at Miller Park on Wednesday with his parents and his sister to tour the facility and take in the Brewers-Pirates game. Hiura took batting practice on the field in a group that included Eric Thames.

"Over the course of your career, dreams kind of come true for baseball players," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "This is a day for him that he's worked very hard to get to. To be in a Major League uniform, taking BP and getting a nice little paycheck, probably, it's a great day."

The paycheck was nice, but so was the prospect of returning to the field.

"It was kind of tough not being able to throw or play the field this year at Irvine," Hiura said. "You know, I enjoy hitting, and I was glad I was able to do that the whole season and not miss any games. That was my goal, to play the whole season."

Now, a new season is about to begin.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.