ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays might have scored the coup of the draft with their third pick. But it will only be a steal if the Rays are willing to pay for it.
Andrew Miller, a left-handed high school pitcher from Gainesville Buchholz, was rated by Baseball America as the 12th-best prospect in the draft and the fifth-best pitcher. Yet the Rays picked him at No.68.
Why did he fall so far? Perhaps because of his salary demands.
"I wouldn't say "demands.' That's kind of harsh," Miller said. "But, yeah, I definitely think the figure we were possibly ... looking for might have been the reason I fell."
Miller said he didn't want to make that figure public, but he is believed to be asking for a signing bonus of more than $3-million.
"The Devil Rays kind of know what it is, and we've talked to them quite a bit," Miller said. "They know what kind of (contract) we're looking at."
Miller has been called a smaller version of flame-thrower Randy Johnson, but he isn't all that small at 6 feet 6, 192 pounds. This season at Buchholz, Miller went 10-3 with a 1.79 ERA and struck out 136 in 70 innings.
His fastball has been clocked in the low 90s, and the scouting report on MLB.com says Miller "will cross your eyes with breaking pitch. Thrives on attention. Special kid. Type that you'd build a franchise around."
Miller, who said he was neither surprised nor disappointed to drop to the third round, has a scholarship offer from North Carolina and said he might attend college. That, he said, could've scared off a few teams too.
"I'm going to leave those options open, for sure," Miller said. "We'll have to see what the Devil Rays bring to the table in the next few days. ... But I'm definitely willing to listen to what the Devil Rays got to say."
The Rays had Miller ranked as one of the top left-handed pitchers in the draft, making him a great pick to start the third round if they can sign him.
"We didn't draft him to say we drafted a talented player," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "It's only a good draft if we sign him, and that's our intent."
HEART OF THE MATTER: When James Houser was 9 years old, he watched Bobby Seay pitch for Sarasota High. Maybe someday Houser and Seay will be teammates.
The Rays picked Houser, a 6-5, 185-pound left-hander from Sarasota, with their second pick (38th overall). There was a much-publicized story that Houser was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a child, but that story was false.
"I'm really glad to be a Devil Ray," said Houser, who went 11-1 for the Sailors this season. "The last couple of days, I tried to not think about baseball. I was going fishing, going to the gym a lot, hanging out with my friends more than normal. I didn't sleep much (Monday) night."
As it turned out, things could not have gone better. He was taken higher than he thought, and by his favorite team.
"My parents had season tickets until this year," said Houser, who goes to about 20 Rays games a year. "But this was my senior year, so they didn't get them because I had a lot going on."
Maybe the Housers will get season tickets again soon.
DRAFT DOINGS: The draft went 20 rounds and baseball hoped to get in 30 more today. The Rays took 10 position players and 10 pitchers.
"Pitching is one of the areas we wanted to address," said Cam Bonifay, director of player personnel and scouting, "and I think we've done that, especially from the left side. ... We were looking in that direction."
The Rays selected five left-handers, including three in their first five picks, and four of the first seven. "They're hard to find," LaMar said.
The Rays also added a lefty from last year's draft late Monday night when they signed Rejino Gonzales from City College of Nevada. He was taken in the 46th round in 2002.