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Speedy Trip For Tankersley?

June 7, 2004
By Mike Berardino

FORT LAUDERDALE--Taylor Tankersley showed his versatility throughout his college career at Alabama, easily sliding back and forth between starting and relieving.

It's that same versatility that could smooth the stocky lefthander's path to the majors.

Taken 27th overall by the relief-starved Marlins, Tankersley just might follow the quick-rising example of 2003 draftees Chad Cordero, Ryan Wagner and David Aardsma.

"I see myself as a starter long-term at the major league level, but the quicker road to the major leagues might be as a reliever," Tankersley said. "I'm open to doing either one. I'm comfortable in both roles. I enjoy both roles."

With a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph and a power slider, Tankersley is still learning a feel for the changeup. He was 2-5, 2.00 with four saves in 68 innings with the Crimson Tide this season, becoming the highest-drafted pitcher from the school since Ken Stabler went to the Yankees in the 10th round in 1966.

Tankersley throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, which makes him particularly tough on lefthanded batters. He sounded eager to get started, saying the matter of a signing bonus is a "minor detail" in the process.

"I think the Marlins liked my versatility in being able to handle both roles," he said. "We'll just see what happens. I'll do whatever they tell me to do and move up as quickly as I can and as quickly as they're comfortable. I feel like I'm close."

Tankersley's strong junior year followed a sophomore season in which he was plagued by a cyst on his left wrist. He had surgery to shave it down last summer and has had no recurrences of the problem.

He's also made some mechanical adjustments to his delivery that keep him from falling off toward third base. More important, Tankersley said, was the mental adjustments he made this season.

"I had tried to maybe to be something I wasn't, tried to fine-tune everything and nip away at the corners," he said. "It was more a (change in my) mental approach to pitching than physical mechanics. This year I made up my mind to go back to the way I threw my freshman year, the way I've always thrown: be aggressive, go right after hitters, challenge them in any count, throw a lot more strikes. I fell back into my niche."

FISH BAIT

The Marlins went the college pitcher route in the second round as well, taking Long Beach State lefty Jason Vargas with the 68th overall pick. Vargas, who attended three schools in three years, tops out at 95 mph. His uncle is former major league infielder Randy Velarde.

The Marlins took another Dirtbag in the fifth round, tabbing Long Beach State catcher Greg Davis. His selection followed a pair of speedy high school outfielders in the third and fourth rounds, respectively: Greg Burns of West Covina, Calif., and Jamar Walton of Emporia, Va.

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