Scouting director Eddie Bane said the Angels are "fairly close" to an agreement with their top pick from the June 7 draft, but he expects negotiations with Georgia high school third baseman Kaleb Cowart to go right up to Monday's 9 p.m. PDT signing deadline.
"It's going to come down to the last day — we knew on June 7 that it would probably be a last-minute deal, like it is with most of the top guys," Bane said Wednesday. "He's a great kid. We know he has options, but we think we're the best option."
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Cowart, who hit .654 with 11 home runs, 59 runs batted in, 55 runs and 36 stolen bases for Cook County High in Adel, Ga., was the 18th overall pick in the draft.
The Angels have offered Cowart at least $1.5 million, a bonus commensurate with his draft slot, but Bane said, "We know it's going to cost us more than his slot figure."
Bane termed predraft reports that Cowart is seeking a bonus of about $3 million as "incorrect." Cowart, who has signed a letter of intent with Florida State, is believed to be seeking a bonus in excess of $2 million.
"If you're not close right now, you're in big trouble, but I've said all along I think we're going to sign him," Bane said. "We know what they want, and they know what we want to give him.
"A lot of guys won't tell you their numbers, but they told us what they were thinking before the draft, and it wasn't the pie-in-the-sky number that some agents give you."
Right of way
Torii Hunter returned from what he called the " MLB correctional facility" on Wednesday, having served his four-game suspension for Friday's argument with umpire Ron Kulpa in Detroit.
But with new center fielder Peter Bourjos out of the lineup for the first time since his Aug. 3 call-up from triple-A Salt Lake, Manager Mike Scioscia kept Hunter in his new position — right field — and started Reggie Willits in center.
The move was an indication that Hunter's switch to right field from center field, where he was a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, probably will be permanent.
"We're not going to flip Torii back and forth," Scioscia said. "Torii needs to get used to right field, and Reggie is a natural center fielder. If we want to get to the end product of our outfield being an asset for us, we need to work out the rough edges and keep moving forward with Torii getting acclimated to right field."
Brian Stokes has made five rehabilitation appearances for Salt Lake and Jason Bulger has made two, but Scioscia gave no indication that the relievers would rejoin the Angels soon.
"They're throwing better, but they need to build up some stamina and some innings," Scioscia said. "They're not quite where they need to be. There are no setbacks. We're just trying to get them to repeat good outings."
Stokes, sidelined since May 11 because of shoulder fatigue, has a 3.80 earned-run average in seven innings for Salt Lake. Bulger has given up no runs and one hit, struck out four and walked one in two innings.
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