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  Tue, June 8, 2004


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Adventurous Blue Jays draft pair of left-handers
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

It wasn't pretty when lefties David Purcey of the Oklahoma Sooners and Zach Jackson of the Texas A&M Aggies hooked up April 17 at College Station, Tex.

The two combined to work 14 2/3 innings and allowed 26 base runners.

Everyone has an off day.

Purcey and Jackson were linked that day in a Big 12 Conference matchup and were joined at the hip again yesterday as the Jays made the two lefties their top two picks in the annual amateur draft of high schoolers and collegians.

Someday -- if the Jays sign both -- they hope to pitch in the team's rotation. We say someday since identifying talent at draft time is easy. The difficult part is signing players.

COMPLETE 18 ROUNDS

Major League Baseball completed 18 rounds of the 50-round draft via conference call yesterday and it concludes today.

A total of nine Canadians were selected, three by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Vancouver's Mike Nickeas, a catcher at Georgia Tech, was the top Canadian selected, going to the Texas Rangers in the fifth round (141st overall).

It marks the latest the top Canadian has gone in the draft since 1998, when Pickering shortstop Lee Delfino was also chosen 141st overall by the Jays, who didn't select any Canadians yesterday. When Day 1 was completed, the Jay selected 17 collegians and an infielder from Puerto Rico.

The 6-foot-5 Purcey, meanwhile, came to the Jays with the 16th overall pick and then the Jays chose the 6-foot-5 Jackson with the 32nd pick -- compensation for the loss of free-agent Kelvim Escobar to the Anahiem Angels.

Basically, according to most scouts, the Jays wound up with two lefties projected to go in the first round, despite what happened before 7,774 fans at Olson Field in April.

Purcey pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed nine hits and five runs, (four were earned), while walking four and striking out nine. He left the game with a 7-5 lead and picked up the win.

Jackson worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and seven runs, while walking two and striking out four.

Purcey, who was scouted by Ty Nicholls, was 9-5 with a 3.11 ERA with 54 walks and 130 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings.

Purcey's final start of the year came on the weekend, when he threw 136 pitches (ouch!) in a 5-1 win over the Central Connecticut Blue Devils in the NCAA regional at Oklahoma City. The Sooners were then eliminated 17-11 by UCLA.

Jackson, scouted by Andy Beene, was 10-6 with a 3.54 ERA, walking 26 and striking out 119 in 112 innings.

While the Jays went the adventurous route -- tall lefties normally take time to develop -- the Jays went conservative with their third and fourth picks, selecting college senior righties Danny Hill of Missouri and Robert Janssen of UCLA.

Both Purcey and Jackson are good selections on paper, but this was their first dominant seasons for both. Plus Jackson transferred as a college junior from Louisville to A&M.

Purcey was a 20th-round choice of the Seattle Mariners three years ago and a 17th-round pick by the Yankees in 2003.

"My senior year of high school I didn't have the best year. My coach, Steve Adair, passed away," Purcey said in a conference call. He'd known Adair since he was six years old.

Purcey is OU's first-round draft pick since 1995 when Mark Redman was selected by the Minnesota Twins.

"I'm a power pitcher with a good changeup and a 12-to-6 curveball," Purcey said.

The clock has begun to tick.