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06/08/10 12:26 AM ET

Righty Whitson happy to go to Padres

Hard-throwing prep hurler fanned 123 in 55 innings as senior

SAN DIEGO -- The city of San Diego and PETCO Park made an immediate -- and a very favorable -- impression on Karsten Whitson last summer.

Whitson, whom the Padres chose with the ninth overall pick in Monday's First-Year Player Draft, spent a few days in the city while he was here to play in the AFLAC All-American Game.

Draft Central

"It was great. The city was beautiful. Just being in that park was surreal," Whitson said. "I pitched at Wrigley [Field] the week before and that was awesome. PETCO [Park], to be honest, I felt was second to none. I felt really comfortable out there."

Especially on the mound at PETCO Park, where the right-handed pitcher from Chipley High School in Chipley, Fla., struck out Bryce Harper, whom the Nationals selected with the No. 1 overall pick on Monday, in the AFLAC game.

"I was really pumped for that. I just wanted that challenge, to see what he was all about," Whitson said.

While Padres assistant general manager Jason McLeod, who oversees scouting, said that the team wasn't intent on looking "to make a lot of splash, but just want to make the right pick."

In the end, McLeod might have been right on both counts.

Whitson, who is from Chipley, a city in the Florida Panhandle, was widely considered the second-best high school pitching prospect in the Draft behind Jameson Tallion from The Woodlands, Texas.

Tallion was selected with the second overall pick by the Pirates.

"Karsten became a guy for us midway through the spring," McLeod said. "A lot of questions we had to have answered, Karsten answered."

Jaron Madison, San Diego's first-year director of scouting, felt like Whitson was a good fit in a lot of ways.

"Makeup and personality is something we've put an emphasis on," Madison said. "He fits what we're trying to do in San Diego. He's aggressive and he knows how to pitch."

Whitson is the first high school pitcher the Padres have selected with their first pick since taking Mark Phillips in 2000. The scout who recommended Whitson was David Francia.

Whitson was 7-3 with 123 strikeouts in 55 innings this season. In addition to playing in the AFLAC game a year ago, he played on the 18-under Team USA squad that won a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Venezuela.

Whitson's fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph, but he consistently sits in the 92-94 range. Whitson's slider is considered a plus pitch for someone his age. And his changeup is a pitch Whitson can throw for strikes, but one that that needs refinement.

This season, Whitson primarily focused on improved command of his fastball, which will no doubt be music to the ears of Padres manager Bud Black, who talks frequently of the importance of fastball command.

"This past offseason, I really focused on my fastball command. That's definitely going to be a big key for me," Whitson said. "Especially moving on to the next level, I'm going to have to command both sides of the strike zone."

Whitson has signed a letter of intent with the University of Florida and has until Aug. 16 to sign a contract with the Padres. On Monday, he sounded like someone who was ready to get his professional career under way.

"I'm definitely ready to go, that's my plan," said Whitson, who is represented by SFX. "Hopefully they can get that done fairly quickly. It's all up to me then. I'm so thankful for this opportunity. I feel like I'm on top of the world right now."

The Padres won't select again until the 59th overall pick in the Draft. They will also pick at Nos. 91 and 124.

Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m. PT, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at 9 a.m.

Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.