Hultzen goes second to Seattle
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —Danny Hultzen’s control is legendary. Once a week, he takes the mound for the Virginia Cavaliers and works the strike zone with pinpoint accuracy.
Lesser known is the control Hultzen, a Bethesda native and St. Albans graduate, has displayed daily, even when he hasn’t pitched. The Seattle Mariners made the Virginia lefty the No. 2 pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday night, ending the speculation and questions that have hounded Hultzen his entire junior season.
“Danny has incredible poise,” Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. “His makeup is just off the charts. He has been consumed with what is best for the University of Virginia and helping his team win. I think that’s a big part of whats gotten him through this time. There’s a lot of pressure on a young man at this age and he’s performed all year long.”
Hultzen pushed thoughts of the draft aside and was dominant this year for the Cavaliers, just as he had been his two previous seasons. Keeping hitters off balance with a fastball clocked in the mid-90s, a nasty slider and an emerging change-up, he racked up an 11-3 record with a 1.57 ERA and 148 strikeouts compared to 17 walks.
Thats in stark contrast to the Pirates’ No. 1 overall pick, Gerrit Cole. The UCLA right-hander saw his velocity stay consistent, but his statistics declined this season, going 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA. Cole’s eighth loss came over the weekend in the first game of the NCAA tournament.
Hultzen had a strong outing - 12 strikeouts and one walk in seven innings - in the Charlottesville Regional to help the Cavaliers advance.
Through it all, he has deflected all questions about his professional future this season, insisting on keeping the focus on the Cavaliers and their attempt to return to the College World Series.
“It’s a tremendous honor for it all to have happened now, but I’m just going to go out there and pitch the way I have been all year,” Hultzen said. “At least I will try to. Its nice that it’s over with. It’s kind of a lift off my shoulders.”
Now that he’s been selected, Hultzen said all contract negotiations and talk of where in the Mariners‘ organization he will begin his pro career will be put on hold until the end of the college season.
“That’s something I’m putting off for a while,” he said. “That’s not even on the radar screen. That’s something for whenever our season ends, which is hopefully a few weeks from now. My focus is on this team and helping this team win games, as it always has been.”
A huge Baltimore Orioles fan as a child, Hultzen, who could have been an asset in the National League with his bat, was shocked to go so high to an American League team, but was excited about the possibility of returning to Maryland as a big leaguer, even if it’s not with the O’s.
“I went to Camden Yards as a kid a lot, watching guys like Cal Ripken play, Brady Anderson and those guys,” Hultzen said. “Hopefully, one day I will be able to play in that stadium, which will be cool.”