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Orioles stock up on arms
06/07/2004  7:21 PM ET
BALTIMORE -- With two former pitchers running the organization and Monday's First-Year Player Draft being pitching heavy, it was no surprise the Orioles stocked up on arms in the first day.

Three of the Orioles' first five picks were right-handed pitchers, highlighted by Rice's Wade Townsend, who was 12-0 for the Owls and the third of three Rice pitchers nabbed in the first eight picks.

"We like his makeup and his production in college," executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We think he's mature and he's not that far away (from the Major Leagues)."

The club also added several power bats in the first 18 rounds. The final 32 rounds of the draft will take place Tuesday.

Because of the signing of Miguel Tejada, the Orioles relinquished their second-round pick to the Oakland A's. In the third round, the club attempted to fill their void at catcher with Florida Atlantic University's Jeff Fiorentino, who only picked up the position this season.

Fiorentino was named to the NCAA Coral Gables Regional all-tournament team and was tabbed the 30th top prospect out of Florida.

"He's an athlete," scouting director Tony DeMacio said. "He's a good left-handed bat and should help us."

In the fourth round, the Orioles went for more pitching in Foothill (Calif.) High School right-hander Brad Bergeson. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder signed with the University of San Diego and was considered one of the top prep prospects in Northern California.

He has reached 95 mph with his fastball and overpowered opponents, going 9-0 with an 0.47 ERA. The Orioles have loaded up on pitching in previous years and are beginning to reap the benefits at the minor league level. John Maine, a 2002 sixth-round pick, is at Triple-A Ottawa. Meanwhile, 2002 five-round pick Hayden Penn was the team's minor league pitcher of the month of May.

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The Orioles are short of pure power hitters in their farm system. The system's leading home run hitter last season had just 14. Florida outfielder C.J. Smith should help that cause. The fifth-round pick hit .347 for the Gators with 14 homers and 47 RBIs. Florida will face Miami in the Super Regionals this weekend.

"We wanted to draft some bats," DeMacio said. "Hopefully we've got some guys who can hit. We wanted some power and I think we got some."

Smith was a sixth-round pick by the Pirates last season as a draft-eligible sophomore but did not sign.

The brass returned to pitching in the sixth round with Washington State right-hander Bryce Chamberlain. His numbers may be deceiving -- 8-3, 5.34 ERA -- because his season was derailed by an unfortunate incident in April, when his jaw was broken in two places trying to break up an altercation in his yard between a man and woman.

Chamberlain returned to the club in a relief role but still was considered one of the top prospects in Washington and possesses one of the best sliders in the draft.

In the seventh round, the club chose University of Texas shortstop John Johnston and tabbed Illinois right-hander David Haeehnel in the eighth round.

Since the duo of Beattie and Mike Flanagan took over in December 2002, the organization has been cautious about taking high school players. Just six prep players were selected in the first 25 rounds in 2003 and this year, the club took just three in the first 18 rounds. Outfielder Samuel Howell, a ninth-rounder, and Bowie, Md. right-hander Andrew Schindling, joined Bergeson as the high-schoolers taken on Monday.

The club continued to draft power in Wichita State right fielder Drew Moffitt, who led the Missouri Valley Conference in home runs the past three seasons. Moffitt, a 10th-round pick, should be easily signable since he is a senior and was drafted 15 rounds higher than in 2003.

Local product Kevin Hart, a right-hander out of the University of Maryland, did not put up eye-popping numbers but has four pitches and likely will thrive from being used exclusively as a pitcher. He also played first base the past three years.

The club added more catching depth with 12th-rounder Juan Puente from Bradley, another senior who could sign soon. Oklahoma City University shortstop Denver Kitch, a 13th-rounder, spent three years at Oklahoma and is considered a good defender. He is another signable senior.

"We mixed in some older kids," DeMacio said. "We liked the guys we got today."

South Florida right-hander Kyle Schmidt was taken in the 14th round while DeMacio took Princeton's William Venable in the 15th round. Venable played basketball for the Tigers, averaging 10.3 points per game for the Ivy League champions and is the son of former Major Leaguer Max Venable.

As an outfielder, he hit .344 with 14 stolen bases.

Right-hander Kyle Boehm from Oakland University was taken in the 17th round.

University of Washington's Trent Baysinger was the 18th-round pick and final of the day. He compiled a 4.12 ERA as a middle reliever for the Huskies.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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