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O's go with Townsend first
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2004 First-Year Player Draft
06/07/2004  4:08 PM ET
O's go with Townsend first
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Wade Townsend was 12-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 18 games with the Owls. (courtesy Rice U)

BALTIMORE -- Wade Townsend's stunning college numbers and his signability were the two major reasons why the Orioles passed on two high-profile college stars and nabbed the Rice pitcher with their first pick in Monday's First-Year Player Draft.

Townsend, a right-hander, was dominant this season for the Owls, who were eliminated from the NCAA sub-regionals on Sunday. He was 12-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 18 games. He struck out 148 batters in 120 1/3 innings and allowed just 74 hits.

With the eighth overall pick, the Orioles passed on highly-regarded infielder Stephen Drew and Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver, who are both represented by agent Scott Boras.

It's the fifth time in six years the Orioles have taken a pitcher with their first pick. Canadian left-hander Adam Loewen was their first choice in 2002 while Georgia junior college outfielder Nick Markakis was their selection last year.


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"I was really excited about it," Townsend said from his home in Texas. "I didn't know they were looking at me. It was really shocked when I heard my name called by them."

Townsend, 21, was one of three Rice pitchers taken in the first eight picks of the draft. Right-hander Philip Humber was taken third by the Mets and right-hander Jeff Niemann was taken fourth by the Devil Rays. The Owls won the 2003 National Championship.

"Yeah, I guess I am the worst one," he joked. "That's fine with me. I think it's personal preference. Once you get high in the draft, it's nip and tuck. As long as you go high you know you're pretty good, so I'm not too concerned about it."

Scouting director Tony DeMacio said all three were talented pitchers and Townsend may have the best upside.

"Rice had a great staff and we're lucky to get one of them," DeMacio said. "I watched him all the way through. I was impressed."

Club officials said Townsend could advance through the system quickly because of his college experience.

"We don't think he's too far away," executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "With his experience and the way he pitched we feel very good about him."

Wade Townsend
School:
Rice U
Position: RHP   B/T: R/R
H: 6-4   W: 225
Born: 1983-02-22   Class: SR
Scouting report:
LARGE FRAME. FOOTBALL TYPE BUILD. BROAD, SLOPED SHOULDERS. STRONG, THICK, MUSCULAR THROUGH CHEST, HIPS, REAR & THIGHS. LOW WAISTED. SHORT ARMS. PHYSICALLY MATURE. NO WINDUP, OVERHEAD DELIVERY W/ EFFORT. PLUS RAW ARM STRENGTH. THROWS DOWNHILL. MOST FB'S 89-93. CAN DIAL IT UP WHEN NEEDED. SPIKED CB, ML OUT PITCH, NASTY, QUICK, SHARP, DOWN BITE, DISAPPEARS THROUGH HITTING ZONE. INTIMIDATING PHYSICAL PRESENCE ON MOUND. THRIVES IN PRESSURE SITUATION.
Scouting video:
56K | 350K

According to Baseball America, Townsend throws 87 to 91 mph but has topped out at 95 mph. Beattie said Townsend's velocity might have dropped because of the long college season.

"Some of our minor leaguers don't pitch 100 innings," Beattie said. "He's pitched a lot this season."

Townsend said his arm strength and velocity actually improved as the season progressed.

"It's actually the complete opposite of what happened," he said. "Earlier in the year, I was throwing slower than the end of the year. At the beginning of the year, I was 88 to 92 and in the last part of the year I was 88 to 94. I know how hard I throw, so I don't think that's really accurate. My arm feels great."

The previous four pitchers the club has taken in the first round -- Mike Paradis, Beau Hale, Chris Smith and Adam Loewen -- are not on active rosters in the minor league system and Hale and Smith have overcome major arm injuries.

"All of our reports say (Townsend's) healthy," Beattie said. "Tony and the scouts get all the medical (information) on all the players and go over it with all of our medical staff. These guys in colleges at this level play a pretty rigorous schedule. With that, we like his stuff and his command."

Gary Washburn 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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