MAJOR LEAGE BASEBALL
Indians draft UH's Wright
The Rangers pick UH recruit Jaimes and the Cubs choose Keoni Ruth
Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso hopes Matt Jaimes chooses to follow the path of Steven Wright.
But Jaimes, a prized University of Hawaii baseball recruit, might be tempted to go directly to the pros from Chino (Calif.) High School after being picked by Texas in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft yesterday.
"He's weighing his options," Trapasso said last night of the outfielder/third baseman/pitcher.
Wright was chosen in the 30th round out of high school in 2003. He opted for UH, and yesterday the Rainbows' ace was picked in the second round, 56th overall, by the Cleveland Indians. Wright will receive a signing bonus of at least $500,000. Jaimes stands to get $100,000 if he signs -- which looks like a strong possibility, despite strong lobbying by Trapasso.
"We think Matt could be like Steven when it comes to the draft. In three years he could be a second-round pick," Trapasso said. "And he could be a great college player right now. He would bat in the middle of our lineup and pitch out of the bullpen as a freshman."
One other player with Hawaii ties, San Diego second baseman Keoni Ruth, was picked yesterday. He went to the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round.
The Kamehameha graduate would have been selected earlier, but he suffered a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder in the NCAA regionals last week.
"Obviously my season didn't end the way I wanted it to," said Ruth, the Star-Bulletin's high school All-State Player of the Year in 2003. "My representative got about 15 calls last night (from teams) asking about the shoulder. I think it scared them off a little. I'm grateful the Cubs will take a chance on me. I had surgery on the other shoulder before, so I know how to come back strong. It will be extra motivation."
Wright also would've preferred a different ending to his college career. He was bed-ridden with mononucleosis and strep throat while the Rainbows played in the Corvallis regional last week.
Contacted at his home in Moreno Valley, Calif., yesterday, the UH ace sounded groggy, but Wright said the early call from the Indians yesterday was great medicine. He said he was pleasantly surprised to be selected so early.
"That makes me feel a lot better," Wright said. "I had a pretty good idea it would be the Indians, because that's the team that was coming after me the strongest in the whole process. It wasn't a surprise, but it was a surprise that I got picked that high. I thought top five (rounds), but not second."
Trapasso expected it.
"Everybody we talked to said two to four. That's a great honor for him. I'm happy for Steven and (pitching coach) Chad Konishi," Trapasso said.
Wright said he hadn't talked with the club yet about where his first pro assignment will be. He also doesn't know when he'll be ready to pitch again.
"I go to the doctor again in a couple of days," he said.
Wright went 11-2 this year with a 2.30 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings.
He was the WAC Pitcher of the Year, and has earned All-American honors by the National Baseball Foundation and Louisville Slugger (third team).
Wright becomes the seventh draft pick under Trapasso, and the highest pick in his five-year tenure. He is the highest pick for the Rainbows since Mark Johnson went to the Houston Astros in the first round of the 1996 draft. Wright is the sixth UH player to be taken in the second round all-time, with UH having two players taken in the first round of the June draft.
Other potential draftees today (or possible free-agent signees after the draft) include San Francisco right-hander Patrick McGuigan (Mid-Pacific), Cal State Northridge infielder Jonathan Sakurai (Aiea), Golden West College's Ian Mopas (Iolani) and UH outfielders Matt Inouye (Mid-Pacific) and Robbie Wilder, catcher Esteban Lopez, first baseman Luis Avila and pitcher Justin Costi.
"We're crossing our fingers for tomorrow," Trapasso said. "We'd like to see our seniors get opportunities."
Other UH recruits, including junior college outfielders Evan Zimny and Brandon Haislett, were among players Trapasso thought might be picked today as the draft concluded.
Yavapai College infielder Milton Loo (Molokai) signed with the Cincinnati Reds before the draft.