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Former O's first-rounder shelved again

Looks like all you have to do is get drafted high by the Orioles to end up with major arm trouble.

Wade Townsend, who was the Orioles' first round pick in the 2004 draft (eighth overall) but didn't sign and ended up with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, is likely going to miss all of 2009 after recent shoulder surgery. That's according to this story.

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Townsend, 25, has had a rough go of it as a professional. He missed all of 2006 after Tommy John surgery and was shut down in 2007 also due to arm soreness.

The former can't-miss pitcher out of Rice University was 7-20 with a 5.48 minor-league ERA in 208 2/3 innings spread over three seasons – none above Double-A.

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Orioles fans surely remember the whole Townsend brouhaha. In 2004, the club was set to take high school shortstop Chris Nelson, when owner Peter Angelos intervened. He didn't want another shortstop after signing Miguel Tejada to a six-year deal, instead insisting the Orioles improve their woeful pitching.

So then-scouting director Tony DeMacio, in his last draft with the club, took Townsend, a logical choice given his numbers in college. The Orioles couldn't sign the big right-hander, though, so he went back to school and was drafted the next year in the exact same spot by the Rays.

He signed for $1.5 million, $350,000 less than what the Orioles had offered, but said at the time, "I'd much rather be with an organization that likes me as a player."

The Orioles took their compensation pick the next year and drafted Garrett Olson, who has had his ups and downs with the Orioles.

Incidentally, Nelson has struggled some as a pro in the Colorado Rockies' organization -- .267 average and .335 on-base percentage in five minor-league seasons, the last at Double-A – but he is still only 23.

I'll let you make your own conclusions on which organization got the better of that mess in 2004. But I know a lot of you like to hear updates on Townsend.

-- Dan Connolly


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