Kohl Stewart, the Tomball, Texas, pitcher selected No. 4 overall in this past week’s major league draft, spent more time playing football than baseball the past five years of his life, according to Mike Radcliff, the Twins vice president of personnel. But the Twins made sure to attend every time he got on the mound this spring.
“We’ve been watching him for the last two years,” Radcliff said. “He did participate in some of the events that we go to during the summer last year. Our scout in Houston saw him before that … and then this spring we were pretty much regulars at every outing that he had.”
Radcliff said he saw Stewart twice this spring and there were 40 scouts at every game he pitched.
“He was a high-profile, well-known guy that was going to go somewhere right behind where we picked if we didn’t pick him,” Radcliff said.
Though Stewart is signed to play quarterback for Texas A&M and coach Kevin Sumlin, it doesn’t appear as though he will suit up for the Aggies, where he would be behind Heisman Trophy-winning sophomore Johnny Manziel on the depth chart. Stewart’s father, Mark, told the Houston Chronicle that his son would be playing professional baseball.
The Twins’ second pick Thursday was Ryan Eades, a Louisiana State righthander that Radcliff was equally high on. Eades pitched four excellent innings Saturday night before a rain delay came as LSU beat Oklahoma 11-1 to gain a College World Series berth.
“He’s a big strong right handed starting pitching candidate, throws up to 95, his best pitch is his breaking ball,” Radcliff said. “He has a really hard outpitch, his curveball. He’s going to improve his change, improve his back-and-forth offspeed-type stuff. But he’s a real tough, strong makeup-type guy … and that’s the thing that separated him from amongst the four-five guys we got down to with that pick 43, our second-round pick.”
Radcliff said he doesn’t expect any problem signing the first two picks. He said scouting director Deron Johnson was in Stewart’s house before the draft and that Stewart is “very close” to signing. As for Eades, the Twins have to wait until the Tigers are done in the College World Series. “I don’t foresee any issues with either guy,” Radcliff said. “I think Stewart should be pitching in our organization in a few weeks and Eades right behind that.”
Asked about Chris Anderson, the Jacksonville University pitcher from Centennial High School selected by the Dodgers 18th overall, Radcliff said: “We liked him a lot. Aas a matter of fact, he’s a guy that we had hopes would make it to our next selection, but our scouts pretty much knew he was going to go in the bottom of the first round before we had a chance to get him.”
The Dodgers then took another local pitcher in the Gophers’ Tom Windle, a player Radcliff said the Twins looked at with the No. 43 pick. Windle was selected 56th.
“We had about seven guys really that we liked as the first round unfolded and we started getting into the second round, and he was one of them. We would have loved to have taken him, we’ve seen him a lot over the last three-four years, and in my humble opinion, the Dodgers got a good one there.”
U recruit shines
Gophers football recruit Berkley Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan and NFL standout Braylon Edwards, helped Chelsea High School win the Michigan Division 2 Lower Peninsula boys’ track and field championship on June 1. Edwards sprinted to two personal records in winning both the 100 meters at 10.58 seconds and the 200 meters at 21.37.
Though Michigan splits up its state track meet into seven divisions — four for the Lower Peninsula and three for the Upper Peninsula — Edwards had the top time in both events regardless of division.
In the 200, he held off Gary Jones of Allegan, a Central Michigan football recruit, by .2 seconds. “It was definitely a photo finish,” Edwards told the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s website. “It was a real close race. My strategy was to get out to the lead and hold it on the curve. I heard him coming. I didn’t want to stress. I just stayed relaxed.”
Braylon Edwards, who was played eight NFL seasons, was very upset that Michigan didn’t recruit his speedy brother.
• Matt Birk said he will retire as a Viking while speaking this past week at the Dunkers Club, a group of Twin Cities business leaders. That’s despite finishing his outstanding NFL career as the starting center for the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Birk also said he was very touched by a phone call from Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf after the Super Bowl. Birk played 11 years with his hometown Vikings before spending his final four with Baltimore. The Cretin-Derham Hall product wowed Dunker members, and like one of them said, the firm that gets Birk as an executive will get a real champion.
• Tanner Vavra, the son of Twins coach Joe Vavra, was drafted in the 30th round by the Twins. Vavra hit a team-high .330 for Valparaiso despite being blind in his right eye.
• Nobody seems to know how the Vikings secondary will line up at present. Asked what he thinks coach Leslie Frazier said: “That’s a little bit of a tough one, but the way we line up now, it’s early, but we’d probably have Josh Robinson at the left corner, Chris Cook at the right corner, our safety would be Jamarca Sanford along with Harrison Smith.”
• Scott Diamond, the ace of the Twins staff last season with a 12-9 record and a 3.54 ERA, had elbow surgery in December. Asked how his stuff compares now, he said recently: “I’d say I’m about the same right now [as before the surgery]. My velocity isn’t probably where I want it consistently but I feel like I’m able to locate a little bit better and it’s still an adjustment, still a game to continue to work on.” Diamond fell to 4-5 with a 5.19 ERA Sunday, but the Twins defense let him down a bit in a 7-0 loss at Washington.
• Tickets for the 2014 Major League All-Star Game at Target Field will not go on sale until this fall, according to Twins President Dave St. Peter.
• If you remember Mo Walker during the Gophers basketball season when he weighed 310 pounds, you wouldn’t recognize him now as he is down to 280 after going on a strict diet and workout program. New coach Richard Pitino believes Walker can make a big contribution if the 6-10 Canadian can get in shape.
• Kevin Slowey, who has struggled since leaving the Twins, showed his old form by throwing seven shutout innings in relief for the Marlins in Saturday’s 20-inning victory over the Mets.