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Draft Update: School looms for top picks

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Heilman spurns Twins, returns to school

By John Manuel

Righthander Aaron Heilman, the 31st overall pick in the June draft, went to class at Notre Dame on Tuesday and will not sign with the Minnesota Twins.

"No. I never really thought I'd be announcing to the world that I'm going to class," Heilman said at a press conference in South Bend, Ind. The baseball world wanted to know because Heilman's hike to class ended the Twins' negotiating window with him.

Heilman, a preseason All-American, went 10-2, 3.21 this season for the Fighting Irish and now will return for his senior season. He has a 28-7, 2.80 career mark at Notre Dame with 12 saves. He has averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, the best mark in school history, and needs just one strikeout to tie the school's career Ks record.

"I'd just like to say that it's been a long summer and I've given it a lot of thought and talked it over with my family," said Heilman, who throws a hard, sinking fastball as his main pitch. "It came to a decision that coming back to school was going to be the best decision for me and that was going to give me the best opportunity. It was a very difficult decision but I am happy to be back here."

In the preseason, Heilman ranked as the No. 3 college prospect available. In Baseball America's May Draft Preview, he ranked the No. 11 prospect available. He and the Twins were reportedly about $300,000 apart in their idea of what kind of signing bonus Heilman should have received; the righthander wanted $1.5 million. Heilman, represented by Mark Rodgers, said money wasn't the only difference but acknowledged it was a factor.

"There are several issues that were at hand, and we didn't quite see eye-to-eye on those," Heilman said. "It kind of got to the point where we agreed to disagree on the topics and that's where we left it. Obviously, one of the major factors is the signing bonus and that did have a part in it, but that certainly was not the only issue."

The Twins have historically had as much difficulty as any big league organization in signing draft picks, and have not signed two of their first three picks this year. Second-rounder Taggert Bozied, like Heilman a preseason All-American in 2000, had yet to sign. The San Francisco first baseman is one of nine unsigned clients of agent Scott Boras. Classes at USF start Thursday.

The Twins have signed 17 of their first 20 selections, though. Other than Bozied and Heilman, the Twins failed to sign their 17th-round pick, lefthander Paul Maholm, who attended classes at Mississippi State this week.

Twins scouting director Mike Radcliffe told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press' Gordon Wittenmyer that he didn't expect to sign both Bozied and Heilman.

"I'd feel real good to get two of those. I'd take one, to be honest," Radcliff told the paper in Tuesday's edition. "There's no question we have been fair. Fair in the mind of the draft pick is sometimes different, though . . . Both (Heilman and Bozied) are emotional cases, and both have their thoughts on why they've been wronged in this draft."

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