Tampa Bay Rays draft
John Farrell was just hanging out, at home in Andover, on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
The 22-year-old certainly deserved a breather, after contributing mightily to a historic season for the William & Mary baseball program, one in which the Tribe racked up a program-best 39 wins and captured their first-ever wins in the NCAA Division 1 tournament (both against Ole Miss).
But after a 9-2 loss to host North Carolina State in the Raleigh Regional final, Farrell, a former star at Andover High School, headed home. Last Saturday, he was tuned in to the NCAA Super Regionals when his phone rang.
Lou Wieben , a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays, was on the line, offering his congratulations.
“For what?” Farrell asked.
With their pick in the 21st round, the Rays had selected the 6-foot-2, 210-pound righthander in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft, a fitting conclusion to what was a dominant senior season for Farrell.
His parents, John and Laurie, were both out running errands.
“When I got the call I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement and I called them,” he said.
Farrell, who paced William & Mary in victories (11-3 overall) and earned run average (2.70), was one of eight players from the area selected in the draft. Joining hime were:
■ RHP Kevin McGowan , Portsmouth/Nashua North/Franklin Pierce (Mets, 13th round)
■ LHP Michael Johnson , Georgetown/Brooks School/Dartmouth (Dodgers, 14th)
■ OF Mike Yastrzemski , Andover/St. John’s Prep/Vanderbilt (Orioles, 14th)
■ 1B Zach Mathieu , Derry/Pinkerton Academy/Franklin Pierce (Mets, 16th)
■ LHP Chris O’Hare Lynnfield/St. John’s Prep/Fisher College (Phillies, 23d)
■ SS Michael Fransoso , Portsmouth/UMaine (Pirates, 27th)
■ RHP Ryley MacEachern , Saugus/Salisbury School (Phillies, 37th round).
Farrell signed a contract last Monday, and the next day he was in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., preparing for short-season ball with the Hudson Valley Renegades of the Class A New York-Penn League. The Renegades will start their 76-game slate Monday at Ripken Stadium, taking on the host Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds. He’ll likely see a familiar face: Yastrzemski, who according to St. John’s Prep assistant David Letarte , has signed with Baltimore and has been assigned to the Ironbirds.
“I kind of look at [Class A Short Season] like summer ball, where you get thrown into an environment you don’t know anybody and try not to think of it as a job, coming down and having fun and doing the best I can,” said Farrell.
“Obviously, I’m taking it seriously. I’m going to focus on the things I can take care of.”
Farrell will focus on developing his third pitch, a changeup, to complement his fastball, which reaches the low 90s, and his hard, breaking slider, which Wieben said will help him stick around.
In a closing role, Farrell had set the school record with 14 career saves as a junior in 2012. But first-year coach Jamie Pinzino , previously the Tribe’s pitching coach, was determined to convert Farrell to a viable starting pitcher.
“It’s really something we talked about at the end of last season,” said Pinzino, a 1997 Tufts graduate who was a four-year player for the Jumbos. His wife, Cheryl Milligan , guided the women’s softball team at Tufts to the NCAA Division 3 title earlier this month. “As the season moved along, we expanded his role for multiple-inning saves.”
Farrell won his season debut, 11-6, against Clemson, and his first seven starts.
He led the Colonial Athletic Association in innings pitched (116.2) after throwing 42.2 in relief last year.
“It’s one of the more uncommon things you see, a college reliever being a starter and having success,” Wieben said. “He went from 42 innings to 116 and held his velocity, and just pitched every time out and did a good job. He has a bit of a rubber arm. To go from that few to that many, it shows he can hold up over the season.”
So how did Farrell make the jump from the bullpen to the starting rotation?
“The biggest thing was just getting my pitch count up and my arm ready to throw more innings, and being able to throw a third pitch,” Farrell said.
Starting “is a different mind game. When you relieve or close, you’re just throwing your best stuff. But when you start, you face a guy three or four times and need to find different ways to get him out.”
Earlier in the season, after William & Mary suffered a 20-3 loss to Delaware, Farrell took the hill on a Saturday afternoon and pitched eight shutout innings in a 9-0 victory against the Blue Hens. After Farrell’s dominant performance, the Tribe won nine of its next 10 games.
While Pinzino marveled at Farrell’s ability to pitch late into games, he said he will be successful at the next level because of his ability to pitch in big-game situations.
“What really set him apart at our level was how he was able to stay composed and competitive to make his biggest pitches when a game was on the line,” Pinzino said.
“We went down the opening conference weekend to Delaware and lost the first game, and we weren’t playing well, and the team hadn’t developed the confidence we had at the end of the season. He went out and threw a shutout, and that breathes a little life into guys.”
O’Hare, who started his college career at Yale, compiled a dazzling 0.15 ERA as a senior at Fisher, an NAIA program in Texas.
He was 9-0 in the regular season, allowing 22 walks while striking out 98 in 10 appearances.
New at Swampscott
Jon Flanagan , athletic director at Swampscott High, cast a wide net seaching for a varsity boys’ basketball coach. On Wednesday, David Born, a 16-year assistant at Watertown High, was named head coach of the Big Blue, who finished 5-11 last season. Four-year coach Justin Fucile stepped down after the season to pursue a master’s degree.
“We were impressed with his basketball IQ and wealth of experience,” Flanagan said. “He’s a character guy, and that’s what we’re looking for in the athletics department.”
Born was also an assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for nine years and Babson College for one.
“He’s seen basketball from all angles,” Flanagan said.