Catching up on Orioles draft history

The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles entered new territory last week. Since the amateur draft began in 1965, the Orioles had never owned the No. 5 pick until Thursday, when they selected Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters.

In fact, the Orioles had selected in the top five only four other times - producing solid but not awesome results.

Only once have they had the No. 1 overall pick - in 1989, when they took LSU pitcher Ben McDonald. They have had the fourth selection three times: in 1988 (reliever Gregg Olson), 1992 (outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds) and 2004 (pitcher Adam Loewen).

The Orioles' track record for first-round catchers isn't as good. In its history, the club has taken six catchers in the first round, including Wieters and, in 2005, Brandon Snyder. The first two, James West (1970) and Ken Thomas (1972), didn't make the big leagues. Drungo Hazewood, taken in 1977, played six games with the Orioles in 1980, but as an outfielder. Jayson Werth, the club's top pick in 1997, was traded away in 2000 and has spent five seasons in the majors, all as an outfielder.

Snyder injured his shoulder last season and has, at least temporarily, been moved to first base-designated hitter.

Overall, the fifth pick has been a pretty good one for major league teams in recent years. The Texas Rangers took Mount St. Joseph grad Mark Teixeira there in 2001, the St. Louis Cardinals selected J.D. Drew in 1998 and the Toronto Blue Jays' fifth overall pick in 1997 was Vernon Wells.

Heads up

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has a rule change idea for Major League Baseball: If a pitcher hits a batter in the head, he should be suspended for two weeks, no questions asked. A second beaning? A month's suspension, La Russa said. And a third in the same season? Gone for the year.

La Russa made his thoughts public after the Cincinnati Reds' Aaron Harang hit Cardinals catcher Gary Bennett in the back of the head Tuesday. He didn't accuse Harang of doing anything intentional and said it didn't matter if it were his batter or his pitcher. La Russa simply hates seeing such dangerous throws.

"If you're a big league pitcher, you should be able to throw the ball below the shoulder," he said. "If you can't, then there should be big consequences. That goes for our guy, too. If our guy does it, I yell, 'Get it down or you're out of there.'"

Free-agent relief jinx

The Orioles were criticized for spending $42 million this offseason on a bullpen that, though improved, has still struggled. They aren't the only ones who haven't gotten an immediate return on their investment. Justin Speier was widely considered the best setup man on the market and the Orioles wanted him badly. But he signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels worth $18 million.

He allowed just three runs in his first 15 games, but hasn't pitched since April 30 due to a viral infection he can't shake. Last week his rehabilitation assignment was shut down and it's unclear when he'll pitch again.

Still waiting

Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, who is scheduled to pitch today against Houston, is stuck on career win No. 99. He's failed to get his 100th in seven straight opportunities and is 0-3 with a 4.73 ERA during that period.

"I bought a bottle of champagne for him two months ago and now it's froze," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

Quote of the week

"You used to see that all the time. The game has changed. You don't do that anymore. ... When it's on video - whether it's Paris Hilton or a manager going off - they've got it [forever]."

- Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox after watching a clip of the organization's Double-A Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman, who had a stunning on-field tirade that included crawling to the mound and throwing a rosin bag at an umpire as if it were a hand grenade.

Quick hits

San Diego Padres closer and probable Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, 39, became the first to reach 500 saves when he fanned Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin on Wednesday. But what's more impressive is Hoffman's consistency: He has converted an incredible 89.6 percent of save opportunities in his career. ... Atlanta's Edgar Renteria and the Angels' Orlando Cabrera, the only two Colombian-born players in the majors, are making a strong case to be 2007 All-Star shortstops. ... Inexplicably, the Rangers are 0-9 in Wednesday games this year.

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