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Monday, June 7, 2004
Weaver falls to Angels at No. 12

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The San Diego Padres' decision to make hometown high school shortstop Matt Bush the No. 1 pick in Monday's draft came down to overall talent -- and more importantly, money.

Leading up to the draft, the Padres said they narrowed their choices to three college players, including Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew and Long Beach State right-hander Jered Weaver.

Instead, they selected the strong-armed Bush from Mission Bay High School, located just minutes from Petco Park.

"I hope to get out here in a couple of years and prove to everybody I'm a major league player and that I deserved to be the No. 1 pick in the draft," Bush said.

Padres general manager Kevin Towers acknowledged that signability played a major role, as agent Scott Boras represents both Drew and Weaver, whose brothers already are high-paid big leaguers.

The Padres were said to be close to signing Bush to a bonus worth around $3.15 million. Both Drew and Weaver were believed to be asking for significantly more than Bush.

"Ultimately you've got to put a value on a player," Towers said. "There were players we had focused on and we had heard that there were expectations that were far higher than where we thought they should be."

Weaver, brother of Dodgers pitcher Jeff Weaver, fell to Anaheim at No. 12 -- two picks higher than his brother went in 1999 to Detroit.

"I just kind of figured money kind of scared them off, the rumors," Weaver said of San Diego. "It was always in the back of my mind that picking Scott, something could happen. But I trust him and he's the best in the business. Everything worked out great."

Drew went to Arizona with the 15th pick and joined brothers J.D. and Tim as the first trio of sibling first-rounders in draft history. He's hitting .353 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs for the Seminoles.

Rice was puffed up about its three pitchers taken in the opening round: Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend. Never before had a school produced three of the first eight picks.

"It's something that probably won't ever happen again," Humber said. "It's an amazing deal and an honor for us. It's kind of neat to go down in history with those guys."

Bush, who also pitched, was the first high school shortstop selected with the top pick since Seattle took Alex Rodriguez in 1993. His defensive abilities and strong arm put him at the top of the draft.

On the mound, the 5-foot-11 Bush throws a 94 mph fastball, but he'll likely be a middle infielder in the pros. He hit .450 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs.

The pick was even more curious because Khalil Greene, the team's top pick in 2002, is settling in as the Padres' shortstop, meaning Bush would likely have to move elsewhere on the field.

"Bush has one of the best arms I've ever scouted," Padres scouting director Bill Gayton said.

Weaver leads the country in wins (15-1) and strikeouts (201) and has walked just 19 in 136 1-3 innings. A finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, the 6-foot-7 Weaver struck out 17 earlier this season, and also holds the Team USA record with a 0.38 ERA.

"I almost jumped through the roof when the Angels said my name today during the draft," said Weaver, from nearby Simi Valley, Calif. "I was particularly ecstatic to be picked by a local team."

With the second pick, Detroit selected Old Dominion right-hander Justin Verlander.

Arguably the best pure pitcher in draft, Verlander went 7-6 with 3.49 ERA this season, but had 151 strikeouts in 105 2-3 innings. He has a smooth delivery and three major league-quality pitches.

The New York Mets took the right-handed Humber with the third pick.

Humber joined his fellow Owls as the first trio of college pitchers to be drafted in the first round. Niemann went No. 4 to Tampa Bay, and Townsend was picked eighth by Baltimore.

Humber pitched the Owls to the College World Series title last year, and went 13-4 with a 2.27 ERA this season -- which ended Sunday with a loss to Texas A&M in the NCAA regionals.

Niemann, also considered by San Diego as the top pick, is a 6-foot-9 power pitcher with great mechanics who went 17-0 last year, but was bothered by a strained groin for most of the season.

Townsend, the WAC pitcher of year and a Golden Spikes finalist, went 12-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 120 1-3 innings for Rice.

"I guess I'm the worst one," Townsend said with a chuckle.

Pitchers dominated the opening round, with 19 selected -- one short of the record set in 1999 and tied three years ago. In contrast, a record 20 hitters were taken last year.

Milwaukee selected right-hander Mark Rogers of Mount Ararat High School in Maine with the fifth pick.

Vanderbilt left-hander Jeremy Sowers was taken next by Cleveland. He was drafted with the 20th pick by Cincinnati in 2001, but opted for college.

With the seventh pick, the Reds selected right-hander Homer Bailey of La Grange High School. Chris Nelson, a shortstop from Redan High School in Georgia, went to Colorado with the ninth pick. Texas took New Orleans right-hander Thomas Diamond to round out the top 10 picks.

Catcher Neil Walker from Pine Richland High School in Pennsylvania, and the son of former major league reliever Tom Walker, was selected by Pittsburgh with the 11th pick.

Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields, who also quarterbacked the Cowboys to a Cotton Bowl victory by throwing for a record 307 yards, was the 17th pick by the Chicago White Sox.