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Lambert Begins Pitching Late, Gets Drafted Early

June 7, 2004
By David Wilhelm

ST. LOUIS--Chris Lambert had a promising career as an offensive-minded defenseman in hockey, but he has discarded the skates and stick.

The Cardinals made Lambert their No. 1 pick in the draft Monday, selecting the 21-year-old righthander from Boston College with the 19th overall selection.

"I think baseball has always been a love of mine, so I felt that was the right way to go," the Manchester, N.H., native said "It was the best decision I ever made."

Lambert went 6-4, 3.02 in 92 innings this season for the Eagles. He has a 97-mph fastball and a sharp breaking ball that leaves hitters powerless.

But command of the curveball has been an issue. Lambert had 51 walks and 107 strikeouts this spring.

"We're very lucky to get the pitcher we got. It should be a nice fit for us," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals assistant general manager and scouting director.

"Lambert has a plus fastball and has four above-average pitches. He has outstanding arm strength and everything about him we see is a plus."

Lambert said the Cardinals wouldn't have trouble signing him. Once signed, Mozeliak will send him to low Class A Peoria or short-season New Jersey.

"I'm anxious to get with the Cardinals and get my feet wet in pro ball," Lambert said. "It's been a dream all along to play professional ball. The faster, the better.

"I had a good feeling about (being chosen in) the first round. But I was glad to hear my name called out, I'll tell you that. And I'm glad it was with the Cardinals."

Lambert would love to follow the path of another New Hampshire native--Cardinals righthander Chris Carpenter, a first-round pick (15th overall) of the Blue Jays in 1993.

"I'd be surprised if he knew who I was, but I know who he is," Lambert said.

Lambert played mostly shortstop in high school, and he said he batted about .450 as a senior. But he had such a good arm that he was converted to a full-time pitcher when he signed with Boston College in 2001.

"I was a pretty good hitter, believe it or not," he said. "I'm relatively young in the pitching world. I've gotten some coaching at school, but I have a long way to go, I know."

At Boston College, the Eagles often battled cold, wet weather. When the weather made it impossible to play outdoors, they used a "bubble" and played inside the football stadium.

Although most prospects thrive in warm-weather climates, Lambert said he adapted to pitching in the cold.

"It's cold even when we're playing a third of the way through the season," Lambert said. "We don't get six or eight months to play, but I try to take advantage of the warm weather. It's just not an all-year thing, but we still progress and still do all right."

REDBIRD CHIRPS

Mozeliak took over scouting director duties from Marty Maier this season and gave the Cardinals' draft a distinct emphasis on performance. The Cardinals joined the Diamondbacks as the only clubs not to draft a high school player in the first 18 rounds.

The Cardinals selected Miami (Ohio) first baseman Mike Ferris in the second round. Ferris, once projected as a first rounder, hit .361-21-62 and showed plus raw power.

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