BASEBALL: Is WSU ace heading back to Pullman?

THREE OF THE FOUR Washington State players selected in the major league draft earlier this month have signed pro contracts -- and the one holdout might be headed back to Pullman.

Coach Donnie Marbut and Chad Arnold, WSU's No. 1 starting pitcher this year, had repeatedly said they expected Arnold to bypass his senior season to turn pro this year. However, Arnold has yet to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And Marbut now seems optimistic that the Cougar ace will return for his senior season.

"If school starts tomorrow, he'd be here," Marbut said Monday. "It sounds like the Dodgers and Chad could not come to an agreement … (but) these things do change."

AN 18th ROUND selection, Arnold was the highest Cougar draft pick this year. He posted a 5-3 record and 3.74 earned run average this season.

Marbut and the Cougars have College World Series aspirations for next season with or without Arnold. But should this year's staff ace return to the fold, that would only add more punch to a roster that has Cougar baseball fans amped over next season's prospects.

Wazzu loses just five seniors off this year's 37-22 team -- only two of whom started -- that finished third in the Pac-10 and second at regionals.

MEANWHILE, SHORTSTOP Shea Vucinich (20th round) and relief pitcher Seth Harvey (37th round) signed with Milwaukee and have been assigned to Helena, Mont., in the Rookie-class Pioneer League.

Michael Weber, a 37th-round pick of Arizona, has been assigned to Yakima in the short-season Class A Northwest League. Weber, who primarily played first base this season at WSU, is listed as a second baseman on the Bears roster.

Weber can renew acquaintances with former Cougar teammate Alex Burg when Yakima faces Salem-Keizer (Ore.). Burg, San Francisco's 24th-round draft pick last year, homered in his pro debut Friday. A catcher, Burg did not play minor league ball last summer due to knee surgery.

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