Herd Pitcher Steve Blevins Signs With Twins

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Marshall University junior right-handed pitcher Steve Blevins signed June 11 with the Minnesota Twins of the American League. Blevins was selected in the 21st round (636 overall) by the Twins in last week's First-Year Players Major League Baseball Draft. He is the first member of the Herd to sign with any major league team after being drafted since 1994 saw two sign with Bucs.

"I am very proud of Steve," Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner said on Wednesday. "(MU pitching coach) Tim Adkins and I both feel he is ready to play pro ball. It's not about which round a player gets drafted or about how much money he signs for, but whether or not he is ready, and we both feel Steve is ready to go. We are very excited to follow him in his pro career and wish him all the best."

In his first season with the Thundering Herd after transferring from Cincinnati, Blevins led all Marshall starting pitchers with 78 strikeouts in a team-high 98.0 innings pitched. He established a 4.41 ERA and held opponents to a .253 batting average en route to a 9-3 record. Blevins' nine victories tied the Marshall single-season win mark of former Herd great JR Watts (1998). Blevins was named second team All-Conference USA prior to the Herd advancing to the post-season as a No. 6 seed.

Steve Blevins, 9-3 for Marshall in 2008 and helping the Herd to a record 30 wins, signed June 11 with the Minnesota Twins after being drafted by the American League club last Friday in the 21st round. Photo from HerdZone.com

Blevins had two complete-game outings in 2008. Both of those came against Tulane, once during the regular season and then again during Marshall's incredible run during the 2008 Entergy Conference USA Baseball Championship. In the regular season contest, Blevins had a career-high 12 strikeouts in picking up Marshall's first-ever win over the Green Wave in New Orleans. Returning to the "Big Easy" for the league's post-season tourney at TU's Turchin Stadium, Blevins followed the regular season performance by fanning eight Green Wave batters in the opening round of the tournament, won by the Herd, 10-5.

Blevins would throw 15 innings in the tournament, helping the Herd to sweep the host, take two of three out of the losers bracket from the second-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles to advance to the first championship game for Marshall since the 1989 Southern Conference final against Western Carolina. Marshall fell to Houston, 3-2, on an unearned run in the eighth innings to finish with a MU record 30 wins on the season. Blevins was one of four Marshall players named to the All-Tournament team by Conference USA.

Fellow MU junior center fielder Nate Lape (Colorado Rockies, 20th round, pick 617), senior catcher Tommy Johnson (Seattle Mariners, 27th round, pick 822) and pitcher Greg Williams (Tampa Bay Rays, 31st round, pick 923), a MU recruit out of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Moeller H.S. who is not going to sign and will come to MU this fall according to the Herd's Waggoner, were the other Marshall draft selections in 2008. Lape, and fellow junior Adam Yeager - the Herd's leadoff hitter and shortstop who, like Blevins, transferred to MU from Cincinnati - are both headed to the Cape Cod League and both now are expected to return for their senior season in 2009 with the Herd. Yeager led the nation in stolen bases, setting a new MU record for a single-season with 47 steals in 56 attempts, including 10 in the C-USA Tournament and a new C-USA record of five versus Tulane in the opener.

Prior to last week, Marshall's last draft choices came after the 1994 season. Matt Spade, who was selected by Pittsburgh in the 28th round with the 774th selection, and Rick Paugh, who also went to the Pirates, was the first pick of the 45th round. Paugh was with the Pirates' organization from 1994-98, while Spade was with Pittsburgh from 1994-96. Marshall's highest draft pick all-time was Greg Hill in 1984, who was also drafted by the Twins when they took the Herd shortstop and catcher in the third round with the 59th selection.

Tony Whiteman signed with the Detroit Tigers as a free agent, and Ryan Roush signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent, after the 1998 season at Marshall. Players like Chad Bumgardner (Huntington Rail Kings, Frontier League, 1998), Tom Kuemple (Ohio Valley Redcoats and Lafayette Leopards, Frontier League, 1998-99) and Brendan Murphy (Kalamazoo Kings, Frontier League, 2008) have signed with independent baseball teams not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Marshall's Rick Reed and Jeff Montgomery also finished their careers this past decade, with the Twins and Kansas City Royals, respectively.

The Twins selected 13 pitchers overall last week on June 5-6 during the MLB Draft. After selecting outfielder Aaron Hicks of Wilson H.S. in Long Beach, Calif., with the 14th pick, the Twins took four pitchers in its next eight selections on day one. Carlos Gutierrez of Miami-Fla. and Shooter Hunt, Tulane's ace and C-USA Pitcher of the Year, were also taken in the first round with picks number 27 and 31. Blevins out-dueled Hunt in the 10-5 win by Marshall over Tulane.

Blevins will be assigned to the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins in the Appalachian League, where there are also teams in Bluefield, W.Va., and Princeton, W.Va., and is the league where Huntington fielded a team, the Huntington Cubs, with a Chicago affiliation from 1990-95. The Twins also have another rookie team in the Gulf Coast League in Fort Myers, the GLC Twins. The Twins low-A team is the Beloit (Wis.) Snappers in the Midwest League, currently 35-30 in the Western Division. They also have an high-A team in the Florida State League in the Fort Myers Miracle, currently 43-22 and in first place in the South Division.

The New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats are in the AA Eastern League for the Twins, and are currently 28-35, fifth in the North Division. The Rochester (N.Y.) Red Wings are in the AAA International League. The Red Wings are 28-39 in the North Division. The Twins are currently 31-34, 6.5 games back of the American League Central Division leading Chicago White Sox.

Blevins will join other Twin rookies for a five day mini-camp in Fort Myers, then report to Elizabethton. In 2007, before coming to Marshall, he threw 88.0 innings for the University of Cincinnati and was named one time as the Big East Pitcher of the Week. His previous career-best before joining the Herd was nine strikeouts for the Bearcats against Austin Peay on Feb. 18, 2007. In 2006 as a freshman at UC, he was named to the Big East Academic All-Stars, second team All-Big East and won Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-American honors, winning two Big East Pitcher of the Week awards. In high school (2001-05) at Lawrence County (Ky.) High School, he was on the varsity team for five seasons, starting in the eighth grade. Blevins earned first team all-conference and all-area honors all five years he played high school baseball. He was a Top 50 junior in 2004, as named by Street and Smith magazine, and had a career record of 32-7 with a 1.02 earned run average and 270 strikeouts while hitting .415 with 210 runs batted in for the Bulldogs.

Blevins is the son of Tommy and Pat Blevins of Louisa, Ky. His brother, Adam, played baseball at Alice Lloyd College in the Bluegrass State. Blevins was majoring in Exploratory Studies at UC and Marshall.

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