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Fast No. 1 deal expected

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are expected to open contract talks with top pick Dewon Brazelton today, with both sides believing it won't take long to strike a deal.

"I think it will go fairly quickly," agent Bo McKinnis said Wednesday. "That comes from Dewon saying from the beginning he was in search of fair, and (Rays scouting director Dan Jennings) and I agreeing that he's not far from the major leagues.

"I know Dan said something (Tuesday) about it being one to three years. The door is open for it to be next year, and I expect that to be a possibility."

McKinnis said he and Jennings "touched base" before the draft but did not discuss specifics. The deal for the right-handed pitcher is expected to be worth around $4-million and could include a September call-up.

FINAL ROUND: The Rays drafted through the full 50 rounds, using 27 picks on pitchers, and Jennings said they did well.

"I like it," he said Wednesday. "The draft was rich in pitching, and we went that way, with plenty of arms and good quality."

Of the 27 pitchers, 19 were right-handers and 14 came straight from high school. Jennings said the Rays probably will sign about half the picks immediately, then watch the others through the summer, and even next spring, before deciding.

LOCAL TALENT: The Rays took a pair of pitchers from Pinellas County schools -- Dunedin's Brian Banks (35th round) and Countryside's Mike White (36th).

Banks was 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA as a senior but had some problems. He pitched through minor injuries, sustained cuts requiring 100 stitches in a February car accident and had surgery in May for a torn labrum.

"He's had two rough years, but the kid has all the ability in the world," Falcons coach Tom Hilbert said. "He was throwing 88-89 (mph) as a sophomore, was effortless, and was projected to be a real high draft pick. He just had some back luck."

White, a Times first-team all-county selection after going 6-2 with a 1.37 ERA, will spurn a scholarship offer from Florida State to attend St. Petersburg Junior College in the hope of signing with the Rays next spring as a "draft-and-follow" player.

White said it was "kind of neat" to be drafted by the hometown team, but the Illinois native wasn't making that much of it.

"I've lived here for 15 years, and the Devil Rays have been here for what, five? I grew up watching the Cubs; that's my favorite team," White said.

The Rays also took Jesuit infielder Matt Lukevics (who hit .373) in the 45th round and Riverview right-hander Eric Beattie (9-4, 0.69), a University of Tampa signee, in the 47th.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Rays officials should have intimate knowledge of at least two of their selections.

Catcher Daron Roberts, son of national cross-checker Dave Roberts, was their 25th pick. "He wants to be a big-leaguer," Dave Roberts said. "It's all he's ever really wanted to be, and I'm happy he'll get the chance to play at some point."

Daron Roberts had thumb surgery about three weeks ago and probably will play at a junior college next season before signing.

Lukevics, son of player development assistant Mitch Lukevics, is unlikely to sign, having received and accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. "This is terrific for him," Lukevics the elder said. "A wonderful surprise."

DRAFT BITS: The Rays twice took two players from the same team: 14th-rounder Thomas Nichols and 37th-rounder Mike Rider played for Armijo High in Fairfield, Calif., and 41st-rounder Derek Acosta and 48th-rounder Brad Davis played for Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo, Calif. ... The Rays made a interesting pick in the 28th round -- Mumba Rivera, a 6-foot-5 pitcher from the Virgin Islands who also played basketball for Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College.

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