Advertisement

Padres Draft Hard-Throwing, Texas High School Left-hander

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Padres went for youth and power Monday with their first-round choice in the major league draft.

They used their pick--25th--on left-handed pitcher Robbie Beckett, a hard-thrower from McCallum High School in Austin, Tex.

“It’s a great feeling to know the Padres wanted me,” Beckett said. “I’m happy about it.”

Beckett, 6-feet-5 and 225 pounds, went 5-6 this season with a 3.05 earned-run average.

Advertisement

But those aren’t the numbers that tell Beckett’s story. The important ones: First, he is 17. Next, take a look at this: in 70 innings this season, he allowed just 27 hits, struck out 128--and walked 127. But he throws in the 90-mile-per-hour range, and the Padres figure he can work out the control problems.

“You can correct a control problem,” Padre Manager Jack McKeon said. “If a guy doesn’t have a good arm, you can’t correct that.”

Beckett said he was watching a movie when Padre scout Kevin Towers called with the news that he had been drafted at 2:30 p.m. The movie was “Major League.” And, no, he said, he didn’t necessarily identify with Wild Thing, the goofy relief pitcher played by Charlie Sheen, despite his inconsistent control.

Quite simply, his arm is what has the Padres excited. And it didn’t matter that he was in high school instead of college.

Advertisement

“College, high school . . . we wanted the best available athlete to us,” said Randy Smith, Padre director of scouting.

Beckett is the first high school player selected by the Padres in the first round since pitcher Jimmy Jones in 1982.

Towers, also a first-round Padre selection in the 1982 June draft, is the Padre scout responsible for the Austin, Tex. area and first saw Beckett last fall.

“I said he was Steve Carlton the first time I saw him,” Towers said. “He has an above-average fastball and a slider in the 80-82 m.p.h. range. In competition, he showed fairly good poise for a high school kid, and I liked the way he went after hitters.”

Advertisement

Beckett, who won’t turn 18 until July, thought he might go in the first round.

“I was hoping and praying and dreaming I would,” he said. “I was looking at the first three rounds. When it happened, it knocked my socks off.”

Now, the Padres have to sign him before whisking him off to one of their minor league teams this summer. Beckett said he doesn’t have an agent, and wouldn’t comment on what it will take for the Padres to sign him.

He did say, though, that he has enrolled at McLennan Community College in Waco, Tex. in case things don’t work out with the Padres. If he plays at a community college, he would be eligible for next year’s major league draft. If he would play at a four-year school, rules stipulate that he would have to wait three years before being eligible for the draft again.

Advertisement

“My parents want me to do whatever makes me happy,” Beckett said. “They’re behind me, whatever decision I make.”

Beckett said he first realized he may have the tools to play professional baseball last summer, when his fastball first reached the 90 m.p.h. range. He said it happened in a summer league game, coincidentally, against fellow Texan Todd Van Poppel’s team. Van Poppel was the most highly publicized high school player in this year’s draft, but wasn’t chosen until 14th overall--by Oakland--because he made it clear that he will attend the University of Texas.

“In the south part of the state--my region--(Beckett’s) name was the big name,” Towers said. “He was the guy going into the season that everybody wanted to see.”

Beckett throws hard, mostly fastballs and sliders. He said he has been working on his curve, and needs to work on a change-up.

Advertisement

“The only thing I’ve needed to do against competition so far is throw a fastball, slider and occasional curve,” he said.

One other thing. Beckett says he is 6-5, but he said doctors say he’s 6-6.

Why?

“Six-six seems kind of Amazonish,” he said. “I should be playing basketball if I’m 6-6.”

Advertisement

Oh.


Advertisement