© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

06/08/07 10:05 PM ET

Mariners make mound priority again

Club repeats selection of 34 pitchers in First-Year Player Draft

SEATTLE -- For the second straight year, the Mariners decided their needs from the Draft were on the pitcher's mound.

Seattle drafted 34 pitchers in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the same number as last season.

Mariners vice president of scouting Bob Fontaine said that as the draft wore on, the number of remaining pitchers trumped any of the other position players still on the list.

"We stockpiled a lot of pitching today," Fontaine said Friday. "We felt that was pretty much the strength for the rest of the day."

Much of the logic behind this year's Draft for the Mariners lies more in future success, rather than immediate results. Fontaine said Seattle continually drafted prospects that it could spend more time evaluating this summer, when the Mariners have a chance to fully assess their talent pool.

Their pitcher-heavy Draft comes as little surprise, though, considering the Mariners drafted Canadian pitcher Phillippe Aumont, an 18-year-old righty out of Quebec.

Two of the Mariners' draftees would feel right at home in Safeco Field, as they were chosen out of the University of Washington. Right-handers Brandon McKerney and John DuRocher were both Huskies and were the 435th and 1,032nd overall picks, respectively.

McKerney, a pitcher who northwest area scout Jim Fitzgerald said could be used as a setup man, is a strong pitcher despite missing the first six weeks of the season with a tired elbow. There haven't been any problems since, though, and his arm strength was too valuable to pass up.

Just how strong?

"If the other team was swinging wooden bats, he probably would have broken about 12 bats," Fitzgerald said about one of McKerney's outings. "He's a great kid, his makeup is off the chart, and I think he's got a bright future ahead of him."

Draft 2007 | Complete Coverage
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5. BAL C Matthew Wieters Georgia Tech
6. WSH LHP Ross Detwiler Missouri St U
7. MIL LF Matthew LaPorta U Florida
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The Mariners' other selection out of the University of Washington, DuRocher, missed much of the season after having brain surgery to remove a tumor. He pitched about six innings this season, but Fitzgerald wasn't terribly worried about his arm strength.

It's no surprise, either. If that name sounds familiar, it's because DuRocher is a former Huskies quarterback. He has some proven velocity, too, having hit 90 mph a few times in front of Mariners scouts.

His credentials were more than enough for Fitzgerald.

"Anyone who can play quarterback in the Pac-10 I think must be somewhat of an athlete," he said. "Even though he didn't pitch a lot this year, he loved to be on the field. I think he just needs an opportunity."

Fontaine's draft history had little to do with pitchers in his first two seasons, when the Mariners drafted heavy on position players.

Aside from their 34 pitchers, Seattle drafted eight infielders, eight outfielders and one catcher.

Seattle's second pick, the 52nd overall selection, was third baseman Matthew Mangini out of Oklahoma State University. Mangini, who won the Cape Cod League batting title just a few years ago, lacked consistency this year, but thinks some of that may be from switching back to an aluminum bat.

And although five of the Mariners' first seven picks were position players, the trend changed in a hurry as Seattle stocked itself with healthy arms.

And so it goes after another Draft, get the players in the system and see how they grow.

That's much of how the Mariners treated this year's draft, and whether it will prove to be a brilliant move rests upon the Mariners farm system. Their work is far from over, as Fontaine said they're not only preparing for next year's draft already, but are looking ahead as far as the 2010 season.

"I try to be realistic, but we're happy," Fontaine said. "We think we met some of our needs with some of the kids we got, and time will tell."

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