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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Indians select UH's Wright in 2nd round

 •  UH's Wright toughed it out

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Steven Wright

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Keoni Ruth

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Three players with ties to Hawai'i were among those selected in the first 18 rounds of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft yesterday.

All are leaning toward signing.

Hawai'i junior pitcher Steven Wright was taken in the second round by the Cleveland Indians. He is the highest drafted UH player since 1996, when pitcher Mark Johnson was the 19th overall pick by Houston. Wright also was drafted out of Valley View High in Moreno, Calif., by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round in 2003.

UH recruit Matt Jaimes, a third baseman from Chino (Calif.) High, was picked in the 12th round by the Texas Rangers.

He signed with UH in November.

Kamehameha Schools graduate Keoni Ruth, a junior second baseman for the University of San Diego, was taken in the 17th round by the Chicago Cubs. He also was drafted in the 17th round by the Kansas City Royals out of high school in 2003.

The remaining 32 rounds will continue at 6 a.m. Hawai'i time today.

Wright, still recovering from mononucleosis that prevented him from pitching at the NCAA's Corvallis (Ore.) Regional over the weekend, felt better yesterday when the Indians called. He was not surprised at where he was picked and who picked him.

"I kind of had an idea because they were the team I talked to the most," Wright said in a telephone interview from his Moreno Valley, Calif., home. "They said they were going to select me between the supplemental first and the third round. It still wasn't a guarantee, but I had a pretty good idea. There were about 10 teams that were talking to me the most, there were about five showing extreme interest and (the Indians) were one of them."

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander enjoyed his finest season with the Rainbows, going 11-2 with a 2.30 ERA and two complete games. He had 123 strikeouts and 19 walks in 109 2/3 innings. He also made one relief appearance, earning a save.

Wright was the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and earned All-America honors from two organizations. Last summer, he won a relief pitcher award in the Cape Cod League. He was used primarily as a reliever as a sophomore, leading the Rainbows with four saves.

Although he missed his last scheduled start against Kansas in the regional opener, Wright was confident it was not going to affect his draft status.

"I knew it wasn't going to hurt me because it wasn't an injury," he said. "It was just being sick. I don't think it would've helped me or hurt me at all (if I pitched or did not)."

Although he still has a season of eligibility, Wright said he will sign, as anticipated.

Wright's advisers are from the Beverly Hills Sports Council, which represents a number of players with ties to Hawai'i. Among its agents is a former client, Mike Fetters, an Iolani School graduate.

Wright is an example of how three years of college helped raise his stock.

"Steve Wright's case is phenomenal," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "It's exactly the way you would draw it up."

Besides increasing his bonus by about five-fold since he was drafted out of high school, Wright also is three years into his college degree, Trapasso said.

Meanwhile, Jaimes said the Rangers offered him a bonus in the range of a fifth-rounder.

"They were the most interested in me," Jaimes said. "They stuck by me the whole way."

Ruth's draft status changed dramatically over the course of the weekend. On Friday, he said he dislocated his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving for a grounder against Fresno State in the opening game of the Fullerton (Calif.) Regional, eventually won by Cal State Fullerton. He left the game and missed the rest of the regional.

"I'm definitely grateful the Cubs took a chance on me, despite my shoulder injury," said Ruth, who returned from San Diego on Monday night. "A lot of teams backed off because of that. I was just hoping someone would believe in me and fortunately the Cubs did."

Ruth had his best collegiate season in helping the Toreros to the NCAA Regionals. He batted .358 with 34 RBIs, and led the team in steals with 18. He was an All-West Coast Conference first-team selection.

Before the regionals, Ruth said he was told he would go between the sixth and 10th rounds.

"But things happen on draft day and a big part of it was my shoulder," Ruth said. "My (advisor) got a lot of calls (Monday night) and told me they all asked about my shoulder. That clearly showed they backed off because of (the injury)."

Ruth, whose advisor is Jonathan Pridie of Sosnick Cobbe Sports, still has a season of eligibility.

"I definitely want to sign, but first things first," he said. "I have to take care of my shoulder and get that ready. I'm ready to get out there and show people what I can do."

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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