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Padres Pick Up a Pitcher

June 04, 1991|JIM LINDGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Joey Hamilton said he was shocked. He said he hadn't talked with anyone from the Padres until Friday, and he didn't know much about the club aside from what he learned having played with Shawn Abner's brother, Chris, for two years at Georgia Southern.

On Monday, Hamilton became the eighth player taken in the 1991 amateur draft. The Padres made him their first-round selection, marking the fourth consecutive time the Padres used their No. 1 on a pitcher.

"I was kind of surprised," said Hamilton, who was the fourth pitcher selected in the draft. "I didn't talk to a Padre scout until Friday of last week, I believe. It came as a bit of a shock because I really hadn't heard much from the Padres. I talked with a lot of other teams during the season and before the season, but I didn't really hear (from the Padres)."

The Padres, however, say they know a great deal about Hamilton.

"He's got a pretty good fastball with very good movement, and he has an excellent changeup," Randy Smith, the Padres' director of scouting, said. "(Padre scout) Andy (Hancock) has seen this kid pitch for a number of years, and we feel that we have a pretty good handle on his ability as well as his makeup."

Hamilton, the winningest Division I pitcher in the NCAA in 1990, was one of nine finalists for the 1990 Golden Spikes Award after leading Georgia Southern to the College World Series for only the second time.

He was 18-4 with a 3.07 earned run average and 138 strikeouts in 161 innings during his sophomore year. This spring, after beginning 0-2, Hamilton was 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 131 innings.

Among Hamilton's achievements, he is Georgia Southern's all-time leader in victories (35), strikeouts (352) and innings pitched (377 2/3). Last summer, after being named the most valuable player in the CWS Midwest Regional, Hamilton played for the U.S. Baseball Federation Team USA in Japan, Cuba and Canada.

Hamilton, 6-feet-4, 210 pounds, was drafted after his senior year at Statesboro (Ga.) High but opted to play for Georgia Southern, also in Statesboro.

"I think it helped me out a lot, playing these three years of college," Hamilton said. "It's helped me mature a lot physically, but more so mentally, I believe. I played in the College World Series, which was some good exposure and some real good experience, along with Team USA this past summer.

"I've traveled all over the world, so I really don't think being a long way from home is going to have an effect on me."

Smith said he is confident the Padres will sign Hamilton, but they aren't sure where they will start him in the minors.

"I think he's going to expect to be treated fairly," Smith said, "but that's how this organization has always treated its picks. There's no such thing as an easy sign, but I don't anticipate any extraordinary problems."

As far as where Hamilton will play, Smith said, "It's tough to say. We're not going to do anything to hold him back. We're not going to do anything to rush him either. Whatever his ability dictates.

This was General Manager Joe McIlvaine's first draft day with the Padres. Initially, McIlvaine had hoped to get third baseman Dmitri Young of Oxnard Rio Mesa High or pitcher Kenny Henderson of Ringgold (Ga.) High.

Young, who impressed the Padres in a recent workout at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals, the fourth selection overall. Henderson was next, taken by the Milwaukee Brewers.

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