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O's emphasize pitching in the Draft

O's emphasize pitching in the Draft

BALTIMORE -- On Thursday, the Orioles used their first-round Draft pick on a left-handed pitcher. But Brian Matusz wasn't the last southpaw the Orioles would nab during the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

The Orioles selected their second left-hander with their final pick on Thursday, drafting Rick Zagone in the sixth round, and they continued their lefty haul on Friday. After nabbing seven left-handers with their first 25 selections, along with four right-handers, the Orioles then went righty-heavy and added 13 more pitchers (three left-handed and 10 right-handed) in the remaining 21 rounds, pointing their focus, for the second straight year, toward once again stockpiling pitching prospects.

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Perhaps to emphasize that point, between the 41st-48th rounds, the Orioles selected eight pitchers in a row -- six right-handers and two lefties.

"The second day's a long day, but I think we had a good Draft," said Baltimore director of scouting Joe Jordan. "Everybody likes it now, but we've got to get them signed and get them out there playing. We added some speed and athleticism to the organization, and we got some left-handed pitching, too. Brian Matusz was a good start, but we also got some good guys behind that."

"We took a lot of left-handers fairly early in the Draft," Jordan admitted. "I think we took some left-handers that have good arms but also have good breaking balls. We were able to put some good inventory in. We didn't have a tremendous amount of left-handed pitching. We had some, but we didn't have enough, and we feel like we addressed it in this Draft."

The next most dominant position of early Draftees for the Orioles was the outfield, where seven of the team's nine outfield picks were used with their top 25 selections.

And in a Draft class that was thought to be rich with first basemen, the Orioles were not tempted, and they didn't even choose a first-base prospect until the 33rd round, 986th overall, after 42 other first basemen had already been chosen. Their choice was Art Charles, a two-sport star (basketball and baseball) out of Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield, Calif.

Two-sport athletes, however, like Charles were a target for the Orioles, who were looking at the pure athleticism that comes with being a multisport performer.

"They were target guys for us," Jordan said of the two-sport athletes. "These guys are athletes, yes, but they're also baseball players. I don't like drafting athletes who I feel don't have a feel for the game. These guys are baseball players, but they've played other sports. We feel like once they start concentrating on our game alone, everything should get better. We feel good about it."

And if the delay in a first-base selection was any indication, one thing the second day of the Draft made clear was that the Orioles were not focusing on the infield defense of their organization. Despite taking St. John's High School in Washington, D.C., second baseman Jerome Hoes with their third pick overall, they selected just 10 infielders in the rest of the Draft.

Orioles' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
4.LHPBrian MatuszU San Diego
50.CFXavier AveryCedar Grove HS (Ga.)
81.2BJerome HoesSt Johns HS (Md.)
116.CFKyle HudsonU of Illinois Champaign
146.SSGreg MiclatU of Virginia
Complete Orioles Draft results >

The Orioles also continued a trend from last year, choosing a majority of players with college experience. Of their 50 total picks, the Orioles selected 33 out of colleges or junior colleges and just 17 straight out of high school -- although nine of their first 25 picks were high school prospects.

"Some top-end guys that fell a little bit, we'll be as aggressive as we can in trying to sign those guys," Jordan said. "I'm just glad it's over. I've got my Draft, and I'll start working on the signing part of it tonight."

Local notables: The Orioles drafted three players with local ties, starting with right fielder Brian Conley in the 17th round. Conley is a graduate of Towson University and Quince Orchard High School and a native of Gaithersburg, Md. Last season with Towson, Conley led the team in batting average (.352), hits (76) and RBIs (65), and he smacked 12 home runs.

They also tabbed locals Patrick Kantakevich, Charles Durakis and Kevin Brady with their 22nd-, 37th- and 44th-round picks, respectively. Kantakevich, a Rockville, Md., native, is a graduate of The College of William & Mary and was a Roger Clemens Award watch-list selection, while Durakis, a University of Maryland graduate, had a .311 batting average and knocked in 40 runs this season with the Terrapins. Brady, out of Gaithersburg High School, was the Gatorade Maryland Baseball Player of the Year and has signed a letter of intent to play at Clemson University next year.

By the numbers: The final tally for the Orioles' 2008 Draft is as follows: 26 pitchers (11 lefties and 15 righties), 11 infielders, nine outfielders and four catchers.

Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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