Morris Hoosier Bats Farm Bridges The Arc Strack and Van Til


Tuesday, June 7, 2011 • POSTED BY:  George Castle Times Correspondent

The suspense did not last long for Trent Howard Tuesday afternoon.

Myriad stories through the ages relate to the disappointment baseball draftees feel if they fall far from where they expected to be picked. But lifelong Hammond resident Howard, a left-hander out of Central Michigan who is often compared to the White Sox's Mark Buehrle in style, was selected smack dab in the middle of where he was projected.

The Baltimore Orioles selected the Clark alumnus with the fourth pick in the seventh round.

Howard will have to wait a few days to find out the Orioles' plans for him. He could barely hear the Baltimore official's good news around 2 p.m. Tuesday as text messages and incoming calls from family and friends flooded Howard's phone after his selection was announced.

"It was a huge relief," Howard said of being the 215th overall pick. "I was starting to feel a little antsy. I was hearing top 200 (overall). I knew there was a chance (to go in rounds) five to eight, or three to eight.

"When I'm listening after the end of the sixth round, the 210th pick, I was starting to get a little worried. They're setting off picks seemingly every 10 seconds. I could fall down pretty fast."

Howard and adviser Barry Meister, a longtime Chicago-based agent, will dicker with the Orioles in upcoming days over Howard's first pro contract. Players in rounds five through eight typically are slotted in at bonuses ranging between $125,000 and $175,000.

Howard wanted to start at $100,000, plus coverage of the cost for the remainder of his stay at Central Michigan, where the junior plans to resume classes toward his degree in secondary education in the fall semester.

The Orioles were not a team high on Howard's radar in the scouting process. He had talked to area scouts from the Cubs, Dodgers and Mariners.

"I was kind of expecting the Braves to pick me because I felt the Braves were very, very interested," Howard said.

"We really like his feel to pitch," Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan said of Howard. "He is a guy who knows who he is and pitches to his strengths. We're excited to add him to our organization."

Twice named the MAC West Pitcher of the Week this season -- with his greatest feat being the nine straight Kent State batters he struck out to begin an April 15 game -- Howard is compared with Buehrle because he substitutes command and control for sheer velocity. Without any pitch breaking 90 mph, Howard throws a tailing fastball, a "tight 11-5" curve, a changeup often employed against right-handers and a cutter.

Buehrle's advice to Howard was simply not to change his style one iota when he starts his minor-league career.

"When you're drafted, you're not going to start throwing harder," Buehrle said. "So just use your location, use what you got, hit your spots and use off-speed pitches.

"He's going to have to work on stuff. That's why you work your way through the minor leagues."

Fellow Sox lefty Chris Sale's top fastball is 10 mph quicker than Howard's and Buehrle's, but he also counseled Howard that command is more preferred than sheer speed.

"That was my problem early -- command," Sale said. "No matter how hard you're throwing it, if you can throw it to a location, you'll be all right. I'd be throwing in the low-to-mid 90s, occasionally a little higher than that, and they were hitting me like I was setting it up for them.

"Velocity is just one of those things that's kind of fun to see from time to time. Obviously, if you can command velocity, it's better to have that. But if you're out there throwing 86-to-88 and you're putting it wherever you want, (can) change speeds (and) give hitters different looks, you'll be fine."

Howard appreciates such words of wisdom and will apply them, whether he begins with a rookie-level team or a Class A Orioles affiliate.

"I've always been a Cubs fan, but I've always watched Buehrle," he said.

Also chosen on Tuesday was University of Kentucky junior Braden Kapteyn. The Illiana Christian grad was drafted in the 15th round by Boston. Kapteyn was also selected in the 2008 as a high school senior by San Francisco.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet," Kapteyn said, when asked if he will sign with the Red Sox or return to the Cape Cod League this summer.