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Indians follow their arm-ament plan

June 7, 2004
By Jim Ingraham

CLEVELAND--The Indians went into the draft expecting to go heavy on pitchers, and thats exactly what happened.

The Tribe took pitchers with its first three picks, and with 13 of its first 18 selections.

For the second time in three years, the Indians used their first pick on a college pitcher named Jeremy. Two years ago it was Stanford righthander Jeremy Guthrie. This year it was Vanderbilt lefthander Jeremy Sowers, whom the Indians selected with the sixth overall pick in the first round.

Cleveland took Florida righthander Justin Hoyman in the second round to give it two of the best pitchers in the Southeastern Conference.

Sowers, 21, went 10-5, 2.64 in 119 innings for the Commodores. He gave up 97 hits, with 118 strikeouts and 23 walks.

Indians scouting director John Mirabelli said Sowers "is not a prototypical sixth pick, in that over the last several years, pitchers taken in the top 10 are usually power arms. Those are the guys who are the sexier picks. If you use that criteria, Jeremy is not a prototypical sixth pick. Hes the polar opposite of (a power pitcher).

The Reds selected Sowers out of a Louisville high school with the 20th overall pick in 2001, but made little effort to sign him. Sowers moved on to Vanderbilt, where he has been the ace of the staff the last three years.

"I interviewed him in high school, and then three years later, this spring, said Mirabelli. "What impresses me most about him is his maturity and poise. Hes very intelligent. Theres a lot to like about him. Hes very level headed and has a lot of presence.

Mirabelli said he is "as confident as I can be about signing Sowers, who will likely command a signing bonus of between $2 and $2.5 million. Assuming he signs, Sowers would likely begin his professional career at short-season Mahoning Valley.

"But he could move pretty quick to high Class A (Kinston), said Mirabelli. "Well see how fast he moves from there.

Hoyman, 22, was 11-1, 2.71. In 133 innings he gave up 106 hits, with 86 strikeouts and 37 walks. He was named the SEC pitcher of the year, and he is one of 10 finalists for the Roger Clemens Award as the top collegiate pitcher of the year.

"Hes a solid guy, a workhorse at an elite college program, Mirabelli said. "This year he really stepped up and elevated himself onto everyones radar screen. He has a solid chance to be a starter in the major leagues.

SMOKE SIGNALS

The Indians picked Ohio State lefty Scott Lewis in the third. Lewis was the Big 10 pitcher of the year in 2003, but had Tommy John surgery in May 2003 before returning in just 11 months to go 1-0, 3.48 in 21 innings down the stretch this year. Lewis was 9-1, 1.61 and averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 2003. Mirabelli said Lewis arm was not a concern. "There are no issues with his health," he said. "He may have come back a little quickly from the surgery. Hes probably a guy we will throttle down some, evaluate him, and get him on a throwing program.

The Indians selected Deer Valley High (Antioch, Calif.) outfielder Jason Denham in the 13th round. They drafted his older brother Dan 17th overall in 2001.

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