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Ready To Go

June 7, 2005
By John Millea

After Matt Garza was named 2005 pitcher of the year in the Western Athletic Conference a week ago, his pitching coach at Fresno State lauded the 6-foot-4, 190-pound righthander and offered a prediction.

There's nobody that deserves (the award) more in my opinion, especially considering where he started to where he's finished and in between what he's gone through, Tim Montez said. It's been a process and he's endured it. It's paying off, and it should pay off even more next week.

The payoff came when the Twins selected Garza with the 25th overall pick in Tuesdays amateur draft. He was projected to go in the first two rounds, and Minnesota wasted little time.

The 21-year-old junior was 6-5, 3.07 this spring with 120 strikeouts in 108 innings, leading the WAC in whiffs. Garza's collegiate career started out rocky--he went 1-6, 9.55 as a freshman. But he has worked hard to develop a four-pitch mix that has served him well. Garza's fastball has been timed between 90-94 mph. He also throws a slider and a curveball.

The native of Easton, Calif., said he was surprised to be drafted so early.

We didn't make it to the (NCAA) regionals during my three years here, he said. I thought that might hurt me. Plus, we're such a small school out here. I'm glad things worked out for me.

After his freshman year at Fresno State, Garza underwent eye surgery to correct cloudy vision in his right eye. Over next two seasons he was a combined 12-8, 3.99.

Garza's agent, Nez Balelo, said several teams, including the Yankees, Rangers and Astros, were considering Garza with their first-round picks. All three teams drafted ahead of the Twins.

We made sure people understood what Matt is capable of doing, Balelo said. "He proved he could do well with a team that didn't win as many games as other programs. He deserves to be in the first round.

Garza said he has no plans to return to Fresno State for his senior year. He has a 2 year-old son, Matt Jr., and said he wants to start planning for his son's future.

The easiest way for me to ensure security for my son is to work my butt off for the Twins, and that's what I intend to do, he said.

The last time Minnesota drafted a pitcher with its top selection was 2000, when college righthander Adam Johnson was taken No. 2 overall. The Twins did select four pitchers in the first and supplemental first round last year, but shortstop Trevor Plouffe was their first pick.

TWIN KILLINGS

With a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, the Twins took California high school first baseman Henry Sanchez with the 39th selection. The righthander hit 482-13-38 in 34 games for Mission Bay High School. The pick was compensation for Torontos signing of free-agent third baseman Corey Koskie.

Minnesota took five pitchers and three shortstops among its first 10 picks. Four of those 10 players were high schoolers.

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