A shocking pick at the top of the baseball draft

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A shocking pick at the top of the baseball draft

From Comcast SportsNet
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) -- Carlos Correa reached into his pocket as he strolled to the podium, pulled out a small Puerto Rican flag and waved it at the cheering crowd. The 17-year-old slugging shortstop had just made hometown history at the baseball draft, and the Houston Astros hope it's only the start of many big moments for the first No. 1 overall pick from Puerto Rico. "I was very surprised," Correa said Monday night at the draft site at MLB Network studios. "I was like, Is it a dream or is it true?'" Yep, it all actually happened. The handshake and hug from Commissioner Bud Selig. The big smiles in the Astros cap and jersey. The pride of an island that has produced its share of baseball royalty. "This means a lot," Correa said. "We've got a lot of good players there." And plenty have come from there, too: from Roberto Clemente and Ivan Rodriguez to Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While some of those signed as free agents, none has ever been the top pick in the draft. Catcher Ramon Castro had been the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico, going No. 17 to Houston in 1994. "I feel so excited to be the No. 1 pick," said Correa, who was congratulated by Delgado on Twitter. "I've worked so hard to be here." Correa was one of five players in attendance at the draft, but his introduction was far from the most entertaining. Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins did a backflip -- after being prodded by a television reporter when a video was shown of him landing one -- a few moments after going No. 13 to the Chicago White Sox. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hawkins, wearing a White Sox cap and jersey, spoke to general manager Kenny Williams right after he stuck his landing. "They said, Go do it,' so I went and did it," a smiling Hawkins said. "But Mr. Williams said: No more.'" Added Selig: "I hadn't seen one before, so it only goes to prove if you live long enough you'll see everything." While the NFL has a few dozen players show up for its draft, baseball has slowly made its event a place to be with the televised first round and major league representatives on hand -- just a few years after it once was held entirely by conference call. The five players in attendance this year were the most since the draft moved to MLB Network studios in 2009. "I hope we can work on that," Selig said. "The more people we can have here, the better I like it, you bet. Five is a good start, but we need to do better than that." Joining Correa and Hawkins were Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney (No. 9, Marlins), Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini (No. 12, Mets) and Washington high school catcher Clint Coulter, who went 27th to the Brewers. Heaney, a draft-eligible sophomore, had tears in his eyes after Miami selected him. Sitting with the other prospects in a makeshift dugout, Heaney headed over to shake Selig's hand and soon was wearing a Marlins cap and jersey. "That's about all that went through my mind is, Don't trip,'" a beaming Heaney said. While recent drafts lacked first-pick intrigue, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said the Astros didn't settle on Correa until about an hour before they went on the clock. Several mock draft lists predicted the Astros would select Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, but instead Houston made a somewhat surprising selection -- although Correa was considered one of the top five players available. Appel slid a few spots lower than projected, going to Pittsburgh at No. 8. The Pirates took UCLA righty Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 selection last year. It was the first time Houston had the top pick in the draft since 1992, when the Astros selected Phil Nevin -- passing on a young shortstop named Derek Jeter, who went five spots later to the Yankees. "I have read about that," Correa said, calling Jeter his idol as much for the New York captain's character off the field as on. "I want to be like him. He's awesome." Luhnow said the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Correa "has a chance to be a star" who could hit 20-30 home runs in the pros, whether it's as a shortstop or "ultimately maybe third base." Correa said he'd like to stay at shortstop, and he plans to use his signing bonus to help his family financially. The Santa Isabel native starred at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and is committed to the University of Miami, but is likely headed to Houston's farm system instead. With the second pick, Minnesota took speedy Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton, considered a five-tool player with a bat considered the best among all draft prospects. "Everybody talks about his athleticism," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. "He's got a really good swing. We think he's going to hit. We think he'll hit anywhere from No. 1 in the order to No. 3. Tremendous, tremendous upside." University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who has drawn comparisons to Jason Varitek for his leadership and ability to handle a pitching staff, was taken No. 3 overall by Seattle. "For me, my most important thing is I take pride in my defense," Zunino said. "Whether it's calling games, or receiving or blocking, that is what really defines me as a player." Baltimore went with LSU right-hander Kevin Gausman with the fourth pick, adding a potential ace to its system. Kansas City took University of San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer, a converted third baseman, with the No. 5 overall pick. "He was the No. 1 pitcher on our board," said Lonnie Goldberg, the Royals' director of scouting. "I think everyone should know that. He's the guy we wanted." The draft opened with uncertainty about the talent -- many teams considered this crop of players weaker than recent groups -- and several significant rule changes in place. Under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, teams will have a pool of bonus money from which to sign players. They'll also face a punitive tax and the possibility of losing draft picks if they go over the prescribed bonus total. If a player doesn't sign, the team loses the amount for that slot. Clubs now have until mid-July to sign draft picks, instead of the previous mid-August deadline. "Let's see how it works out," Selig said. "I am very optimistic. I think this will work out very well. And I think these are changes clearly helping the game." The first round and the initial compensation round were completed Monday night, with rounds 2 through 40 conducted through Wednesday via conference call.

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Podcast: 'Baseball in the District' - Can Nats win without Ramos?

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Podcast: 'Baseball in the District' - Can Nats win without Ramos?

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It was a tough series of days to begin the week for the Washington Nationals, who saw Wilson Ramos go down with a torn ACL on Monday night and Stephen Strasburg essentially be ruled out for the NL Division Series on Tuesday. Those two developments came on the heels of Bryce Harper's injury on Sunday, though Harper's X-ray did come back negative.

We opened the show this week with a discussion about Ramos and whether the Nats can win the World Series without him. We continued to talk about how the Nats match up with the Dodgers, then finished with thoughts on the tragic loss of Marlins superstar Jose Fernandez.

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

[RELATED: Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals]

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Kelechi Osemele says he never came close to re-signing with Ravens

Kelechi Osemele says he never came close to re-signing with Ravens

OWINGS MILLS — Raiders left guard Kelechi Osemele had plenty to say during a Wednesday conference call before facing his former team, the Ravens, on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Osemele said he didn’t come close to re-signing with the Ravens during free agency in March, because their offer wasn’t competitive. Osemele signed a five-year, $58 million contract with Oakland, which included $25.4 million guaranteed.

Osemele said he knew that his fourth season with the Ravens would be his last, after talking to other ex-Ravens who had departed during free agency like 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith.

“Honestly, we didn’t get close at all,” said Osemele. “I pretty much knew right away I was going somewhere else, because some of the things that were being brought back to me, were, borderline they can hurt your feelings.

“The Raiders were very up front about how badly they wanted me. It was a pretty much a no-brainer. I talked to Torrey Smith about it and some other guys. They kind of told me that it might be a situation where Baltimore won’t offer me enough to stay. It’s something that does happen with that organization, because they’re able to find so many young players.”

Rookie left guard Alex Lewis has replaced Osemele in the Ravens’ starting lineup, playing next to another rookie, left tackle Ronnie Stanley. But with the Ravens unbeaten (3-0) and the Raiders off to a 2-1 start, Osemele was looking forward to competing against players he used to practice against every day.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Osemele said. “You couldn’t really finish through and pancake (during practice). Just to go out and talk a little trash and compete against those guys is going to be fun.”

Asked for any Ravens in particular he looked forward to pancake blocking, Osemele chuckled and said, “You’ll see on Sunday.”

Osemele said he enjoyed his time in Baltimore and that he wasn’t surprised the Ravens were 3-0.

“It was great,” Osemele said of his time in Baltimore. “I still have a lot of friends there. I come back when I can. I just like the city. I had fun there off the field. I love the organization and believe in what they do for the community, but I’m somewhere else now. I won a Super Bowl in Baltimore. I already know what the organization’s all about. There’s a standard of excellence there, something that we’re trying to have here in Oakland.”

Osemele added that there was “one coach in particular” he didn’t see eye-to-eye with in Baltimore, but didn’t specify which coach it was. But judging from his comments, it’s safe to say Osemele is looking forward to facing the Ravens.

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