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Orioles think Finch has potential
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06/03/2003  8:24 PM ET 
Orioles think Finch has potential
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
BALTIMORE -- There were more highly regarded Texas A&M pitchers on the board and ones with better numbers. But Orioles officials nabbed the Aggies pitcher with the most potential with their second-round pick in Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft.

So Brian Finch became property of the Orioles, despite amassing a 5.40 ERA for Texas A&M, which lost to Houston on Sunday in the NCAA Sub-Regional final.

Finch is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander who primarily pitched in relief this season for the Aggies. He is 10-2 with a 4.51 ERA in 47 career games. Several experts had A&M pitchers Scott Beerer and Logan Kensing rated higher than Finch.

Scouting director Tony DeMacio said Finch has a tremendous upside.

"College numbers don't mean a thing," DeMacio said. "This kid has a power arm, a chance to be a No. 3 starter, a closer's mentality. He got better during the season. He's a tough kid. We liked him a lot. The numbers don't always tell the story."

After drafting junior college slugger Nick Markakis in the first round, the Orioles selected three consecutive right-handers: Finch, William & Mary's Christopher Ray and Southern Mississippi's Robert McCory.

Primarily a reliever his first two seasons for the Indians, Ray was converted to a starter for his junior year. He went 6-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 94 2/3 innings pitched. That's where his stock may have dropped from a being taken in the first round to being taken in the second or third. Scouts have said he has closer's stuff.

McCrory is a former high school football player is and considered one of the hardest throwers in the draft. He features a 97-mph fastball and a hard curveball but is lacking a consistent third pitch. He was 10-3 with a 3.84 ERA for the Golden Eagles in 2003.

"It's just a big relief to have it over with and not have to sit and wonder about it anymore," McCrory said on the USM Website. "I watched the Draft with my parents, and we're all pretty excited."

Getting pitching early was a primary goal for the Orioles.

"We went after three right-handed power arms," DeMacio said. "It was not a deep draft. We wanted to get some arms in the system. After that you just get a guy that you liked."

Seeking speed in the organization, the club went after high school shortstop Nathaniel Spears from Florida in the fifth round. Spears is considered more of a second baseman.

The Orioles have nabbed several Big 12 Conference players in the past few years, including seven in last year's draft. They drafted center fielder Eric Sultemeier from the University of Texas. Sultemeier, playing for the Longhorns in the Super Regional, is hitting .318 with nine homers.

The club then went after a pair of left-handed pitchers: Justin Azze from the University of Hawaii and prep star Nathan Nery from Moon Area High School in Pennsylvania. Azze never played for Hawaii. He signed with the Rainbows in 2002 but was declared ineligible by the NCAA and sat out the 2003 season.

DeMacio said the club could not pass on Azze's upside despite the layoff.

The focus then became outfielders. Center fielder Jared Rine from West Virginia and Texas Christian right fielder Jacob Duncan were selected.

Rine finished 34th in the nation with a .403 average for the Mountaineers. Duncan led the Horned Frogs with a .368 average and added 12 homers.

The O's then went after Matthew Houston, a catcher from Oklahoma City University in the 11th round, and Woodland (Cal.) High School third baseman Matthew Pulley in the 12th. Pully was the second Oklahoma City player selected.

In the 13th round, the Orioles went with James Hoey, a right-handed pitcher from Rider University, and then took another Hawaii player, catcher Brian Bock, a defensive specialist who had 50 assists last season.

The club nabbed another left-handed pitcher, Jordan Timm from Wisconsin-Oshkosh, in the 15th round and took outfielder Alan Beck from Western Carolina in the 16th round.

In Tuesday's later rounds, the Orioles took some chances, such as selecting center fielder Lorenzo Scott from Ball State, an athlete who started just five games for the Cardinals in 2003. Scott is a safety on the Ball State football team and could sign with the Orioles and play his senior season this fall.

"We're gonna dream on him a little bit," DeMacio said. "In the later rounds, you look for guys with upsides. We hope it works out."

Baltimore completed its day by selecting Jason Furrow, a left-handed pitcher from Converse (Texas) High School in the 18th round; University of Mississippi shortstop Christopher Tolbert in the 19th round; and Tony Neal, a right-handed pitcher from South Alabama.

In addition to Adam Loewen, the club signed two draft-and-follow picks from 2002: 36th-round pick Russell Petrick, a left-handed pitcher from Bellevue (Wash.) Community College, and 39th-rounder Henry Lozado, a high school pitcher from Puerto Rico.

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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