The Toronto Blue Jays were among four major-league baseball teams that phoned Ryan Wehrle on Tuesday inquiring what it would take for him to leave Nebraska and begin his professional baseball career.
The Huskers’ sophomore first-team All-Big 12 Conference and third-team All-America shortstop — eligible for the major-league draft because he’s 21 — got the call from the Blue Jays during the fifth round, about where he’d been projected to be selected.
“I told them what they need to pay me to go,” Wehrle said, “and they just said good luck.”
Thirteen rounds later, Cincinnati chose Wehrle, who on Wednesday made it clear that the Reds would “have to come quite a ways” on a financial deal that would entice him to sign rather than return to NU.
Wehrle’s sophomore teammate, left-handed pitcher Tony Watson, is in an identical situation after being drafted in the 17th round by Baltimore. Watson — who earned the same honors as Wehrle while compiling a 10-2 record with a 2.87 earned run average — had been projected as a third-round-or-better pick.
“The draft is about signability,” NU coach Mike Anderson said. “This year, being sophomores, they had a little more room for growth, so you project them maybe as (rounds) four, five or six. Can you sign them at that money? Sometimes that answer is no.
“I can name five to six left-handed pitchers that went before the 17th round that there’s not a question Tony Watson is better.”
While the Reds and Orioles appear to be looking for bargain picks in Wehrle and Watson, Anderson said those clubs also fully realize that “coming back to Nebraska (for another year) is a pretty darn good option.”
Teams that draft players hold their rights until they attend the first class of the fall semester. That’s why Anderson can truly identify with the term “dog days of summer.”
But with Wehrle (who paced NU this past season by hitting .367 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs) and Watson, he’s not as concerned about losing them late.
“I’ve talked to the Wehrle family and Ryan, and Tony and his family. I think they’re in the same boat,” he said. “The only difference, with Tony being a pitcher, is somebody may see him good on a certain night and say he’s worth this (amount).
“With both of those kids, I think you have to wait all the way to August. But they’re being extremely up front. They’re: ‘Listen, make us your best offer now and we’ll make a decision so we don’t have to wait until July or August.’ If they get the money, I’ll be the first to congratulate them.”
For now, Wehrle plans to take a few weeks off to rest a sore knee and then head east to play for a yet-to-be-determined team in the collegiate Cape Cod summer league. Watson plans to pitch for Harwich, Mass., in the same league.
One Husker underclassman who will be turning pro soon is junior outfielder Luke Gorsett.
An all-league pick who batted .348 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs, and also led Husker outfielders with six assists, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Denver was selected by St. Louis in the seventh round Tuesday.
“Everything pretty much adds up and makes sense. I think I’m ready to just start my pro career,” said Gorsett, who will meet with Cardinals representatives on Friday.
Gorsett’s productivity for the Huskers fell over the last six weeks of the season because he played with a stress fracture in his lower back. The injury worsened to the point that he missed two of the team’s final three games, and was only able to pinch hit in the other. Gorsett said he’ll go through six weeks of physical rehabilitation before he’s ready to play.
On Wednesday, when the final 32 rounds of the draft were held, St. Louis also took the Huskers’ All-Big 12 first baseman Brandon Buckman in the 19th round.
His selection left all three NU seniors drafted. On Tuesday, catcher Jeff Christy was taken by Minnesota in the sixth round, while reliever Brett Jensen went to Detroit in the 14th round.
Also Wednesday, NU junior Jared Cranston was picked by San Francisco in the 34th round. The left-handed junior, who went 2-0 with a 6.46 earned run average in 21 appearances, had been drafted last year by the Giants in the 46th round.
Cranston’s selection left Nebraska with eight picks in one draft for only the third time. The 2001 team also had eight draftees, while the 1983 squad had nine.
Before Wednesday’s draft ended, Brett Sowers, an infielder from Englewood, Colo., became the second Husker recruit taken when the Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the 47th round. On Tuesday, Zach McAllister, a right-handed pitcher from Chillicothe, Ill., was selected by the New York Yankees in the third round. McAllister plans to turn pro.
Reach Curt McKeever at 473-7441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.