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Originally published Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Mariners ecstatic to draft pitcher turned outfielder

Seattle selects James Jones of Long Island University in the fourth round to start second day of Major League Baseball draft. They later picked a pitcher and another North Carolina player.

Seattle Times staff reporter

When the second day of the Major League Baseball draft resumed Wednesday with the fourth round, the Mariners knew exactly who they wanted: James Jones from Long Island University.

The Mariners had the second pick of the day. But with the Washington Nationals going first, they weren't sure they were going to get Jones.

"Trust me, even though there was just one team ahead of us, I had two names for that pick, because I thought he might be the first one taken today," said Tom McNamara, the Mariners' scouting director. "I was wrong, and very happy about it. We're ecstatic to get him."

Jones, a left-hander, entered the year as a well-regarded pitcher with a 94 mph fastball, but his stock dropped after a 1-9 season with a 7.40 earned-run average. He has also played first base, but the Mariners drafted him as an outfielder. Baseball America compares him to Adam Jones.

"I don't want to build him up too much, but we feel his better days are ahead of him," said McNamara. "We want to sign him and let him go play."

Jones was one of 27 players selected by the Mariners as the draft moved through the 30th round. It will conclude today with rounds 31 through 50.

"Someone told me a long time ago that these picks are the guts of your draft," McNamara said. "The top four or five guys should be your top players, but if you do research on drafts in the past 20 years, from Pujols to Piazza to whoever, there's second-day draftees that play in the big leagues and are All-Stars."

With their first 32 picks, the Mariners have selected 18 position players — including their first six choices. But McNamara said that wasn't by design.

"I think it's just the way it worked out," he said.

In the fifth round, the Mariners finally went with a pitcher, taking Oklahoma State right-hander Tyler Blandford. He is regarded as having first- or second-round stuff, but has struggled with his control. He struck out 97 in 78 innings this season, but walked 45, hit 13 batters, threw 12 wild pitches, and committed four balks. Opponents hit .210 off him, with eight homers.

The Mariners project Blandford as a relief pitcher. "Most likely he'll end up as a setup guy one day," McNamara said.

Notes

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• The Mariners' sixth-round pick, second baseman Shaver Hansen of Baylor, is the son of former pro wrestler Stan "The Lariat" Hansen.

• The Mariners dipped into the North Carolina program for the third time to take Tar Heels reliever Brian Moran, a left-hander, in the seventh round. Moran, the nephew of former UNC and major-league player B.J. Surhoff, appeared in a team-high 34 games, all in relief, with a 7-1 record and four saves. In 64-2/3 innings, he gave up 42 hits, with 88 strikeouts and just eight walks. Opponents hit .184 off him.

The Mariners' first pick — No. 2 overall — was UNC's Dustin Ackley, and they selected Tar Heels infielder Kyle Seager in the third round.

"I've gotten a bunch of texts — 'what's with North Carolina?' Sometimes, it just works out that way," McNamara said.

Of the 18 position players selected by Seattle, nine are left-handed hitters, and three are switch-hitters.

"That's nice, isn't it?" McNamara said of all the lefty bats. "Was that by design? Not really."

• They have taken just five high-school players, but those include two of their first three picks, shortstop Nick Franklin and catcher Steve Baron.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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