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Stocking Up On Power Pitchers

June 8, 2005
By Marty Noble

Given the chance to nab one of the top pitchers in the draft, the Mets were hardly intimidated by agent Scott Boras.

Where several teams passed up Boras' stable of power pitchers, the Mets selected Wichita State righthander Mike Pelfrey, making him the second high profile college righthander the Mets have taken in the past two years.

Pelfrey was the third pitcher chosen in the first round, behind Cal-State Fullerton lefthander Ricky Romero of Cal State Fullerton and former Rice righthander Wade Townsend. That he remained available until the ninth selection delighted the Mets who understood Pelfrey's availability was tied to Boras and his reputation as an unyielding negotiator.

Signability, an issue essentially created by Boras over the years, is not an overriding concern to the Mets. Gary LaRocque, the Mets vice-president of player development and scouting, said the club's primary consideration always is "taking the best player available."

Finances are considered, of course, but they were unmentioned on draft day as the Mets rejoiced about their good fortune and gushed about their selection. And Pelfrey seemed unconcerned about money--he referred to it as "the business part." But that's why he had retained Boras, so he could remain unconcerned. "As soon as the business part is taken care of," he said. "I'd like to go out and play."

The Mets' investment in the Wichita native will be significant. But the Mets' regard for Pelfrey is such that overpaying won't be so distasteful as it would be for almost any other pitcher selected. A person familiar with the club's thinking said overpayment to St. John's reliever Chris Hansen, another Boras client who was taken 26th by the Red Sox, couldn't be justified by pitchers' potential.

Gary Stephenson, Pelfrey's coach Wichita State, said his pitcher had matured dramatically in his time at the university and probably is already equipped to deal with major league life. He believed Pelfrey would develop quickly. "He's the most consistent starting pitcher we've ever had here," Stephenson said. "He's a great starter and a greater finisher. He commands three pitches for strikes, and he's got real bulldog in him."

Pelfrey said he had heard of the Mets interest in him only recently. "I grew up a Royals fan," he said. "But honestly, today I'm the biggest Mets fan."

The Mets' first-round selection in the 2004 draft, righthanded pitcher Phillip Humber, was the third player selected, so, if the club signs Pelfrey, it will have two of top five pitchers taken in a two-year sequence. A person familiar with the club's thinking said the Mets believe Pelfrey has a slightly higher ceiling than Humber.

Pelfrey, 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, has natural sink on his mid-90s fastball that has touched 97 mph. He also throws a changeup that has developed into a plus pitch and gives him something to keep lefties honest. He also throws an average curveball.

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