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Immediate Impact

June 7, 2005
By Bill Ballew

ATLANTA--With the Braves having traded some of its highly regarded pitching prospects over the past two years, scouting director Roy Clark entered the draft looking to reload in the arms race.

He gave the Braves a quick infusion of arms, taking seven pitchers in the first 10 rounds, headed by righthanded

reliever Joey Devine, the team's first round pick out of N.C. State.

"It's no secret that we've had to give up some of our young arms in order to help the major league roster," Clark said. "We saw Devine on numerous occasions and liked a lot of different things every time we saw him. We feel very comfortable that he can help us on a variety of fronts."

Some scouts suggested prior to the draft that Devine is the one pitcher that might be able to jump to the big leagues at some point this year. No drafted player has accomplished that feat with Atlanta since third baseman Bob Horner went from the Arizona State campus to the Braves' lineup in 1978.

If Devine pitches for pay the way he has at N.C. State, the righthander will be a rapid riser.

Devine's strengths are his plus velocity and control. He has been clocked as high as 97 mph and threw at 96 at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in late May. In 28 appearances this year with the Wolfpack, Devine led the team with 12 saves, 72 strikeouts and a 2.03 ERA. He owns the school record with 36 career saves, and is one of only three pitchers in conference history to post 10 or more saves in three straight seasons.

Devine becomes the sixth pitcher in eight years to be drafted with the first pick by the Braves. He is also the first collegiate player taken first by Atlanta since outfielder Mike Kelly was selected out of Arizona State in 1991 and the first collegiate pitcher to headline a draft since the Braves took lefthander Derek Lilliquist out of the University of Georgia in 1987.

Clark and the Braves returned to normalcy shortly thereafter. Atlanta took lefthander Beau Jones from Destrehan (La.) High with the 41st overall pick and righthander Jeff Lyman out of Monte Vista High in

Aloma, Calif., with the 77th overall selection. A third prep pitcher also was nabbed in the fourth round--Michael Broadway, a 6-foot-5 righthander out of Pope County High in Illinois.

WIGWAM WISPS

The Braves also deviated from their usual approach by

taking Cuban defector Yuniel Escobar Almenares, a 21-year-old shortstop with a steady glove, strong arm and potent bat in the second round. Escobar was a childhood friend and teammate of Atlanta catcher Brayan Pena.

Clark has mined the Atlanta-area ball fields and drafted numerous local products in recent seasons. This year, the Braves did not dip into the Peach State until the fifth round, taking Georgia lefty Will Startup. The first local high school player was taken in the seventh round-second baseman Brandon Monk from LaGrange.

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