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Rox roll with lefty Friedrich in Draft

Rox roll with lefty Friedrich in Draft

DENVER -- Eastern Kentucky left-handed pitcher Christian Friedrich wasn't selected where he was projected, and the Rockies took him 25th overall in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday. If Friedrich was unhappy about it, he didn't let on.

"I just kept hoping I'd be the next pick," said Friedrich, rated the No. 2 left-hander in the Draft and projected to go anywhere from ninth to 15th. "I knew I was going to get picked, so I wasn't worried about it at all. First round is first round, and it's giving me a chance to play at the next level."

But to hear Colonels coach Elvis Dominguez tell it, Friedrich will use it to fuel him.

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"What we learned about him was the more you'd tell him 'No,' the harder he tries, the more he's out to prove a point," Dominguez said. "In this case, the Rockies are going to be very happy he was out there. He's going to show a couple of people that they made a mistake."

Friedrich, who turns 21 on July 8, was named this season's Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year, going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 12 starts as a junior for a club that went 26-27-1. He saw several possible wins turn to no-decisions because the bullpen could not hold late leads. In his final three starts, he went 24 innings without giving up an earned run, struck out 31 and held opponents to nine hits.

The Rockies made Friedrich the second player in OVC history selected in the first round. The Cubs took Morehead State lefty Drew Hall third overall in 1984.

Teams completed the first six rounds on Thursday, and the Rockies went exclusively to the collegiate ranks for their picks. Three were pitchers -- Friedrich, Mississippi State right-handed reliever Aaron Weatehrford (third round) and Western Michigan right-handed starter Ethan Hollingsworth (fourth). They also selected Georgia Tech right fielder Charles Blackmon (second round), Louisville third baseman Chris Dominguez (fifth) and Arizona State catcher Kiel Roling (sixth).

Only University of San Diego's Brian Matusz was ranked ahead of Friedrich among lefties and went fourth overall to the Orioles. Although no other lefty was selected ahead of Friedrich, teams began selecting hitters and the Rockies found him available at No. 25.

Many Draft projections had the Rockies picking Highland (Ill.) right-hander Jake Orodizzi, but Colorado went into Thursday looking to pick the best player available, and snapped up Friedrich. Orodizzi went 32nd overall to the Brewers.

Rockies' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
25.LHPChristian FriedrichEastern Ky. U
72.RFCharles BlackmonGeorgia Tech
103.RHPAaron WeatherfordMississippi St U
137.RHPPhillip HollingsworthWestern Michigan U
167.3BChristopher DominguezU of Louisville
Complete Rockies Draft results >

"[Friedrich] was the best player on the board when we went to select, regardless of position," Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt said. "I anticipated him going prior to our selection. You've got to be prepared for what comes your way."

Friedrich, who struck out 103 and walked 33, said he will need to improve his fastball command. But since coming out of high school in Evanston, Ill., Friedrich has improved his fastball range from 86-88 mph to 90-93.

His curveball is considered his best pitch, but Friedrich made a name for himself last summer in the Cape Cod League -- a wood-bat league for top college players -- by honing his changeup. In college games with aluminum bats, he noted, some poorly hit changeups end up bloops off the middle of the bat or hits to the gap off the end of the bat.

He finished his final Cape Cod League playoff game by striking out Gerald Posey (drafted by the Giants, fifth overall), Jason Castro (Astros, 10th overall) and Gordon Beckham (eighth overall, Cubs).

Friedrich will draw a lot of comparisons to the Rockies' Jeff Francis, the club's top pick in 2002 and the last lefty the club took in the first round. Friedrich said he has used video of Francis to study the proper delivery. Schmidt said a more accurate style comparison would be to the Indians' Cliff Lee.

Friedrich said he told the Rockies he is signable but has not gone any farther in negotiations. Schmidt said the Rockies haven't begun discussing where Friedrich will begin his Minor League career.

Four of the Rockies' last six No. 1 picks are with the current club. They are: Francis, third baseman Ian Stewart (2003), shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2005) and right-handed pitcher Greg Reynolds (2006). All but Stewart were selected out of college.

In addition, in a special honorary draft of former Negro League players, the Rockies selected Mack 'Mack the Knife' Pride, who pitched for the Memphis Red Sox and the Kansas City Monarchs. He is brother of country music superstar, and former Negro Leagues player, Charley Pride.

Here is a look at the Rockies' six first-day picks in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft:

First round
Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky (25th overall): Friedrich, generally regarded as the second-best left-handed pitcher in the Draft, was expected to be taken no later than the 14th overall pick. But with teams opting for hitting over pitching, the Rockies couldn't wait to grab him as soon as they got the chance. Friedrich was 5-1 last season, giving up 17 runs (13 earned), striking out 108 and walking 33. He was named a preseason All-American and the sixth-best prospect by Baseball America before the season began. Friedrich is a 2008 Golden Spikes Award finalist and was named the Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Second round
Charles Blackmon, RF, Georgia Tech (72nd overall): After pitching for two years at Young Harris College (Ga.), the 6-foot-3, 201-pound junior transferred to Georgia Tech in 2006. He redshirted in 2007 and moved to right field before the season. Blackmon was named to the All-ACC Second Team in his first year with the Yellow Jackets after leading the team in batting average (.396), hits (.99), runs (68), on-base percentage (.469) and stolen bases (25).

Third round
Aaron Weatherford, RHP, Mississippi State (103rd overall): The Bulldogs didn't win a lot in 2008, going 23-33, but when they had a late lead, Weatherford was there to close it out. The 6-foot junior tallied seven saves for MSU, allowing just five runs (three earned) in 31 2/3 innings. He led the team with a minuscule 0.85 ERA.

Fourth round
Ethan Hollingsworth, RHP, Western Michigan (137th overall): Hollingsworth followed up a tremendous junior year, in which he had a team-low 2.55 ERA and was named the Broncos' Most Valuable Pitcher, with a stellar senior season. In 13 starts Hollingsworth went 5-5, had a 3.84 ERA, struck out 77 and walked 26.

Fifth round
Chris Dominguez, 3B, Louisville (167th overall): Dominguez was eligible for the Draft as a sophomore after redshirting his freshman year in 2006. Physically imposing at 6-4, 240 pounds, Dominguez let his presence be known in his first year with the Cardinals, hitting 15 home runs, driving in 61 and scoring 47. His contributions helped Louisville qualify for the College World Series. In his encore season, Dominguez led the team with 21 home runs and 75 RBIs, and was second with a .365 average.

Sixth round
Kiel Roling, C, Arizona State (197th overall): Roling has shined for the Sun Devils as a catcher and designated hitter after transferring from Central Arizona College two years ago. As a sophomore he was named First Team All-Pac-10 as well as First Team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association. This year, he hit .344 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs while helping Arizona State earn the third overall seed in the College World Series.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Jeff Birnbaum contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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