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Cleveland Indians

Tribe takes two local players

By Sheldon Published: June 11, 2009

   CLEVELAND: After making the Indians' 50th and final pick in the amateur draft, the 1,505th selection overall, scouting director Brad Grant took a break. ¶
   But not for long. Grant and his lieutenants already have begun the negotiating phase of the draft process, and in 10 or 12 days Tribe scouts will fan out across the country looking to get a bead on next year's draft choices. ¶
   The drafted ended Thursday with teams picking players from the 31st through the 50th rounds. Among those taken by the Tribe was a second player from Kent State plus a former City Series pitcher. ¶
   Taken in the 38th round was Kent State right-hander Robert Sabo, 21, who is projected by Grant as a reliever. ¶
   ""He's coming off shoulder surgery last year and only pitched 20 innings this year,'' said Grant of Sabo, who lives in Middletown. ¶
   On Wednesday, the Indians took Kent State starter Kyle Smith in the 20th round. ¶
   Grant was asked whether picking players that low in the draft was really worth the trouble. ¶
   ""You keep going,'' he said. ""You don't give up. Tony Sipp was picked in the 42nd round. You can find value in the back of the draft.'' ¶
   Grant's choice in the 42nd round this year was Akronite Jonathan Kountis, a 21-year-old right-hander who pitches for Ohio Dominican University, an NAIA school in Columbus. ¶
   ""I think he's changed his body a little (for the better),'' said Grant of the 6-foor-2, 240 pounder. ""We're going to watch him over the course of the summer.'' ¶
   Kountis graduated from Firestone High, where he played basketball as well as baseball and won the award as the school's most valuable pitcher in each of his four seasons on the mound. ¶
   After his freshman year of 2007 at Ohio Dominican, Kountis was named the third best pitching prospect in the Alaska collegiate summer league by Baseball America. Last summer he pitched in the prestigious Cape Cod League. ¶
   Twenty-two of the Tribe's picks were college pitchers or junior college pitchers, though Grant said that was not by design. ¶
   ""When we looked up at the board, that's the way it went,'' he said. ""But it wasn't intentional. We had 865 players on our board when we started, and we still had about 75 at the end.'' ¶
   Teams deal in high volume during the draft, but they know the odds are small of finding viable big-leaguers. ¶
   ""If we get three major-league players, it's a good draft,'' Grant said. ¶
   Players who are high school seniors or college juniors must sign contracts by Aug. 15 or go back into the pool for next year's draft. ¶
   AT IT AGAIN -- Last year, the Indians set the American League record for being hit by pitches with 108, and they are on pace to break the mark with 42 in the first 61 games. ¶
   ""A lot of it comes from hanging in there,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""You have to stick your nose in there to be a successful hitter. That's what a lot of our guys do.'' ¶
   The team leaders, as usual, are Kelly Shoppach with 12 and Ryan Garko with six. But a new entry has broken through this year: Shin-Soo Choo with six. Shoppach leads the league; Garko and Choo are tied for third and Ben Francisco, with four, is tied for 15th. ¶
   CONDOLENCES -- One of the Tribe's most popular players of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Woodie Held, died Thursday in Dubois, Wyo., at the age of 77 after a battle with cancer. ¶
   Held was signed to a pro contract by the Yankees but was traded to Kansas City and then to Cleveland, along with first baseman Vic Power, for Roger Maris and two others in June, 1958. He quickly asserted himself as the everyday shortstop and remained with the Tribe for seven seasons, through 1964. ¶
   He hit a high of 29 home runs in 1959, one of three consecutive years he hit at least 20. Held was the Indians' all-time home run leader among shortstops until Jhonny Peralta broke his record in 2008. ¶
  Long after his playing days were over, Held participated in the Tribe's annual fantasy camp. ¶
  JUST TEMPORARY -- Jhonny Peralta was back at shortstop Thursday night, but the move is hardly permanent. ¶
   ""I just wanted to give Jamey (Carroll) a night off,'' Wedge said. ""So (Luis) Valbuena moved over to second and Jhonny went back to short.'' ¶
   FARM FACTS -- Eric Berger (4-4, 2.37 ERA) gave up one run and two hits in 61/3 innings, as Kinston beat Myrtle Beach 4-1. *elip Abner Abreu doubled and singled in Lake County's 8-2 loss to Delmarva. ¶

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