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O's sign top pick Werth, pursue other first-rounder

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ATLANTA -- The Orioles wasted no time agreeing to terms yesterday with the first of their two first-round draft choices, signing high school catcher Jayson Werth to a deal worth $850,000 to $900,000.

Werth, the 22nd overall pick of the draft, was not expected to be difficult to sign. The Orioles are still pursuing their second first-round pick, Colorado two-sport star Darnell McDonald, who already has rejected an opening bid of $2 million. Unlike McDonald, Werth had made no secret of wanting to join the Orioles though he had signed a scholarship to attend the University of Georgia.

Werth played his last high school game Tuesday and signed in front of scouting director Gary Nickels yesterday afternoon. Werth will attend a news conference in Baltimore on Monday, then report to the Orioles' extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., before joining the club's Gulf Coast League team.

"I'm just looking forward to getting down to Sarasota and getting at it. The past couple days we finally reached a figure that both parties thought was fair. Let's go," he said.

Werth caught in high school but is projected as a possible third baseman or outfielder.

The Orioles will likely have to offer at least four times Werth's signing bonus to cement an agreement with McDonald, the draft's 26th pick who has signed to play baseball and football at the University of Texas.

Pub Date: 6/14/97

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