- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

NEW YORK Of the many publications that handicapped the top 10 picks of yesterday's amateur baseball draft, none included left-handed pitcher Chris Smith, whom the Baltimore Orioles selected with the No. 7 overall pick.

Which begged the question: Were the Orioles going out on a limb in taking the Cumberland (Tenn.) University hurler or did he slip under everyone else's radar?

"Everybody has their own opinion," Baltimore director of scouting Tony DiMacio said. "He didn't slip under our radar."

A 21-year-old junior and former outfielder at Florida State, Smith hasn't pitched very long but showed enough in one season at Cumberland to impress the Orioles. In 15 appearances, the 6-foot, 190-pound native of Wantagh, N.Y., was 9-2 with a 2.13 ERA, striking out 115 batters in 84 1/3 innings. He also led the team with 17 home runs and a .414 batting average.

"He's got great makeup and comes right at you," DiMacio said about Smith, who throws his fastball at 92 to 94 mph. "We feel like we got a fresh arm."

With another first-round pick and a "sandwich" selection between the first and second rounds both as compensation for Mike Mussina's free agency defection Baltimore took Louisiana State second baseman Mike Fontenot with the 19th pick and Seminole (Fla.) High School shortstop Bryan Bass with the 31st pick.

Fontenot, a 20-year-old sophomore from Slidell, La., batted .339 with 14 home runs this season at LSU. The 5-foot-8, 178-pound left-handed hitter led the Tigers with a .462 batting average in last year's College World Series.

"He's a catalyst-type guy," DiMacio said. "He also has some power and is very physical for his size."

Bass, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound switch-hitter, played for the Junior National Team in last year's Pan American Championship.

Of their 21 selections yesterday, the Orioles took 13 pitchers, seven left-handers. Other notable picks included right-hander Joseph Coppinger, the brother of former Baltimore pitcher Rocky Coppinger, in the seventh round and first baseman Dustin Yount, son of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, in the ninth round.

Hentgen rejoins team

Injured pitcher Pat Hentgen says if his recovery from a sprained elbow ligament goes well, he hopes to be back on the mound before next month's All-Star break.

"I think a lot of it depends on when I can start throwing and see how I feel," said Hentgen, who expects to begin throwing in the next 10 days. "The one thing they've stressed to me is not to rush it, strain it again and have another setback."

The 32-year-old right-hander was examined last week in Birmingham, Ala., by Dr. James Andrews, who discovered the sprained ligament on top of the previously disclosed strained tendon. For Hentgen, who missed about two months with a similar injury in 1992, Andrews' prognosis was encouraging, especially considering the large number of major league pitchers who undergo the surgery.

"It was really good news for me when I left Birmingham," Hentgen said. "When you're talking about elbow ligaments, the name Tommy John came to my mind. So when I left there, I felt fortunate that it's just a sprain."

Extra bases

The Orioles entered last night's play third in the American League East, the highest they've been this late in a season since Aug. 28, 1998… . Rookie Jay Gibbons was in the starting lineup for only the third time in the last 22 games. He started in left field for slumping Delino DeShields, who has been relegated to batting seventh or eighth when he is in the lineup.


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