A's Give Sanburn Chance To Start

OAKLAND—For a guy who went to college expecting to become an outfielder, Nolan Sanburn has emerged as quite a pitcher.

Sanburn, a second-round pick in June, made a big impression during instructional league with both a big-time fastball and an excellent assortment of pitches.

"This kid is just special-special," said Gil Patterson, the A's outgoing minor league pitching coordinator. "I have a 14-year-old son, and if he grows up to be like Nolan, I would be delighted."

Patterson sees the 6-foot, 175-pound Sanburn as special both on and off the field. "His skill level on the field—he's a horse," he said. "He could be a No. 1 or No. 2 guy. When it's all said and done, he'll be a tremendous starter."

This is high praise for a pitcher who spent most of his time in the bullpen for Arkansas during his two college seasons. When Patterson saw Sanburn's pitch variety, he believed he had a starter in the making.

"He has four quality pitches," Patterson said. The fastball hits 97 mph and usually sits at 94. Farm director Keith Lieppman refers to the curve as a "snapdragon" with a quick, late drop. The change seems to come out of the hand hard, then fade as it approaches the plate. And Patterson had been working to tweak the slider into more of a cutter with a little higher velocity. With this assortment, the A's believe Sanburn can be an effective starter.

"I feel like I want to be a starter, this was my calling and this is what I want to do," Sanburn said. "When I signed, I said, 'Put me in as a starter until I prove to you that I can't do it. If for some reason things don't work out, I have experience in the bullpen.'

"I feel like I have four good pitches that I can throw for strikes."

Sanburn, 21, earned Arkansas' closer job as a freshman in 2011, putting up a 2-4 record with eight saves. He had a mixed role in 2012, with four starts and 18 relief appearances. He finished 4-1, 2.43. Because of his birthdate, he was eligible for the 2012 draft as a sophomore, and the A's came calling. After what they have seen so far, they cannot wait for what happens next.

A's Acorns

• Scott Emerson was named the organization's new minor league pitching coordinator. Patterson moved to the Yankees to take a position as director of pitching.

• The A's named their organizational award winners for the 2012 season. Third baseman Miles Head was named player of the year, while righthanders Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin shared pitcher of the year honors.