White Sox Draft Report
By Phil Rogers
CHICAGO--Keith Foulke, one of baseball's best closers the last three years, has consistently said he'd rather be starting. He might get his chance if the White Sox are right about San Diego State lefty Royce Ring.
Sticking to the organizational policy of stockpiling pitching, which they established with the 1997 White Flag trade that brought Foulke and others from San Francisco, they used the 18th overall pick in the draft on college baseball's best closer. Ring generates early comparisons to Randy Myers. The Sox believe he can come to the big leagues, first as a lefthanded specialist and then as a closer.
"He wants to be a closer,'' White Sox scouting director Doug Laumann said. "He said, 'I want to have an impact and try to win a game every day. I don't want to have to wait five days to win a game. I want to have a chance every day. And he pitches that way. He's a power guy. He attacks hitters.''
Ring's fastball topped out in the mid-90s this season, when he went 5-1, 1.85 with 17 saves for the Aztecs. He had 55 strikeouts and 13 walks in 39 1/3 innings, holding batters to a .204 average.
Ring relishes the closer's role. In Trevor Hoffman fashion, he entered games with music blaring, in his case Metallica's "Sad But True.''
"It's great,'' Ring said about being selected by the White Sox. "I've been working real hard to get to this point.''
Ring is 6-foot-1 and weighs 215 pounds. That's down from about 250 pounds as a freshman. While improving his conditioning, Ring has also developed a knee-buckling curveball and an average changeup.
Laumann and senior scouting director Duane Shaffer had targeted Ring as the top player who they felt might still be on the board when they picked in the first round. While the organization has promising closers in the high minors--Edwin Almonte at Triple-A Charlotte and Joe Valentine at Double-A Birmingham--they are thin in bullpen lefthanders. They haven't developed a top lefthanded reliever since Scott Radinsky.
"Thankfully we got the guy that we wanted,'' Laumann said. "We got the guy that we targeted, and we are pleased with that.''
This marks the fourth time in the last five years that the White Sox have spent their top pick on pitching, the exception being Stanford slugger Joe Borchard in 2000. "We definitely like to draft pitching,'' Laumann said. "Pitching either brings you other pitchers or other players [in trades] so we kind of stick with that philosophy.''
On the first day of the draft, the Sox took pitchers with 14 of 22 picks. They took Louisburg (N.C.) College righthander Josh Rupe in the third round and Keller (Tex.) High School lefthander Ryan Rodriguez in the fourth. They invested an eighth-round pick in Texas A&M righthander Todd Deininger, a Joliet, Ill., native who didn't sign when the Cubs took him in the fifth round of the 1999 draft.
The Sox also are excited about their Long Beach State center fielder Jeremy Reed, who they took in the second round. "We think Jeremy's going to be a quality defensive center fielder,'' Laumann said. "He's got a chance to be a leadoff type of guy.''
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