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June 7, 2011

Tide has three players taken in MLB Draft

TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama starting pitchers Adam Morgan and Nathan Kilcrease joined center fielder Taylor Dugas as second-day selections in Tuesday's MLB Draft.
Morgan highlighted the Alabama draft class, going in the third round to the Philadelphia Phillies. Dugas came off the board next for the Crimson Tide, falling to the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round. Kilcrease rounded out the bunch as a 30th round selection of the Oakland Athletics.
A junior from Marietta, Ga., Morgan went 5-7 with a 4.64 ERA this season. The lefty throws in the upper 80s with a plus curveball and a solid change-up. Morgan served as the No. 2 starter for the Crimson Tide this season, appearing in 16 games.
Morgan said that if the money is right, he will sign with the Phillies, foregoing his senior year with the Crimson Tide.

"In the top three rounds, the money should be good," Morgan said, adding that he will speak to the Phillies organization in the coming week.

Morgan will join former Alabama teammate Austin Hyatt with the Phillies if he signs. Hyatt was drafted by Philadelphia in the 15th round in 2009. Morgan said he received a text message from Hyatt congratulating him on being drafted and looking forward to working together.

"It's awesome to be able to learn from people who know pitching," Morgan said of going to the Phillies organization. "It's unreal. It's a dream come true. You work all your life for this."

Morgan will also join former Alabama third baseman Jake Smith. Smith went to the Phillies in the 15th round of last year's draft.

Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said was happy for Morgan, adding that he expects Morgan will sign rather than return for his final year of eligibility.

"That's a good spot for him," Gaspard said. "He was looking for the top four rounds to have interest in signing. By going in the third round we'll see.

"They don't take you there unless they're going to try really hard to sign you. We don't have many third rounders come back."
Like Morgan, Dugas will face the choice to go pro or return for his senior season. Dugas led Alabama in batting average (.349), slugging percentage (.564) and home runs (eight) this season.

In a twist of coincidence, it was the Cubs that chose Dugas. Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was one of the first to lay eyes on the feisty center fielder from Louisiana. In his senior year of high school, Dugas met Hendry during a team dinner at his coach's house. Hendry spoke to the team about what it is to be a major league ballplayer.

Dugas said Hendry struck him as a good, honest man. The major leagues passed on Dugas after graduation, but three years later it was the Cubs and Hendry that came calling again.

"He was a really straight-up guy," Dugas said of Hendry. "I guess things happen for a reason. It's neat that it was his team that took me."

Dugas said he will to talk with his family before making the decision to either sign with the Cubs or return for his senior year. For now, he's enjoying the moment.

"We're going to soak it in for a couple of days and when they get back to me we'll see," Dugas said. "Coming back there's really a lot in my favor. We'll see what the money holds."

Dugas said that either way it will work itself out, calling it a, "win-win situation."

"This is going to be a good team next year," Dugas said. "I'm in a position to break some records here which would be really cool."
With the money normally dropping off after the third or fourth round, Gaspard said he's unsure if Dugas will sign, adding that he's, "very interested in coming back to school."
Gaspard was especially proud of Kilcrease being selected by the Oakland Athletics. The second-year head coach had been encouraging scouts to look at Kilcrease with a fresh set of eyes all season. The righty throws in the low 90s and has won seemingly every big game for Alabama over the past two years. This season against first-round pick Alex Meyer out of Kentucky, Kilcrease bested the 6-foot-9 flamethrower in a 4-0 pitcher's duel.

"I've been telling every scout no matter where you take him he's going to make you look really good doing it," Gaspard said.
Kilcrease was the biggest question mark of those taken in the draft. Despite amassing a 16-7 record over the last two seasons, Kilcrease was looked upon sparingly because of his size at 5-foot-6.

With Kilcrease gone and Morgan likely headed to the pros, Alabama will lose its No. 1 and No. 2 starters next season.

Alabama signee Ian Gardeck, who was expected to compete for a spot in the rotation, was also selected in the draft. The 6-foot-2 righty with a mid-90s fastball went in the eighth round to the White Sox.

Another Alabama signee, pitcher William Kamplain, was also taken in the draft. The left-hander from Walker High School was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 22nd round.

For Gaspard and the rest of the coaching staff, the weeks ahead are a crapshoot. Players who go in the eighth round can find themselves being offered third round money they can't refuse. Negotiations can drag on and on, leaving coaches unsure of how to manage the roster
"You're never in the clear until those negotiations break off," Gaspard said. "You can't plan for who will stay and who will go."

Other likely Alabama draft picks include junior shortstop Jared Reaves and senior catcher Brock Bennett. The MLB Draft will conclude tomorrow with rounds 31-50.

Reach Alex Scarborough at [email protected] or 205-722-0193.

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