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Brewers Go For The Gold

June 7, 2004
By Tom Haudricourt

MILWAUKEE--In a quest to improve their pitching depth, the Brewers could have delved into the college ranks and made a relatively safe first-round pick who might advance to the major leagues quickly.

"Or you can go for the gold," said assistant general manager Gord Ash.

Unmoved by the college pitchers on the board when they made the fifth overall pick in the draft, the Brewers selected Mark Rogers, a hard-throwing high school righthander from Maine.

"What we like about him is his package of skills: his size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), his mental makeup, what we think he's going to bring to the table," scouting director Jack Zduriencik said. "When you put the whole package together, as we sat in that room, we thought this kid had an upside and is someone that's going to have a bright future in this organization."

The Brewers took Rogers, 18, out of Mount Ararat High in Orr's Island, Maine. Already highly regarded, his stock soared this spring and he became the first Maine high school player ever drafted in the first round.

Rogers put up eye-popping numbers this spring, going 8-0, 0.16 with 10 walks and 142 strikeouts in 56 innings. He has allowed only one earned run all season, holding opponents to a .040 average.

A superior athlete who also served as captain of his school's hockey and soccer teams, Rogers often faced weak competition in the state's Class A division. The Brewers didn't worry about that because he threw his fastball regularly in the mid-90s and at times as high as 98 mph, while mixing in a good curveball and changeup.

"He's a big kid with a big arm," Zduriencik said. "We understand the competition. We like the kid on his ability and we like what we think he's going to become.

"Because he's in Maine, you don't have the opportunity to see him as much as kids from warm-weather states. But he's been a guy on our radar screen since the middle of last summer."

Rogers has a scholarship to Miami but said he intends to sign with the Brewers as soon as possible. "I'm committed to go out and play professional baseball," he said. "I think the Brewers understand that."

As for opting for Rogers over a college pitcher, Zduriencik said, "There's always a temptation to take a guy who's closer. When the day is done, you have to ask the question: Have I done the best thing for this organization at this point in time?"

MICROBREWS

The Brewers took a high school pitcher in the second round as well, tabbing righthander Yovani Gallardo of Trimble Tech High in Fort Worth, Texas. In an 11-inning game this spring, Gallardo struck out 25 hitters but was allowed to throw 148 pitches.

The emphasis on pitching continued in the third round with the selection of righthander Josh Wahpepah, a full-blooded Native American who pitched for Cowley County (Kan.) CC this spring, and Rice righthander Josh Baker in the fourth round. Wahpepah was an 18th-round pick of the Tigers last year, but Detroit could not sign him as a draft-and-follow.

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