Fourth Round Pick Lee Armed And Dangerous

In 2005, the Oakland A's spent one of their second round draft choices on a pitcher who had one of the liveliest fastballs in the draft, Craig Italiano. This season, the A's zeroed in on another fireballer with their fourth round selection. Chad Lee may not have been well-known to most fans before the draft, but with his stuff, he could quickly make a name for himself. We catch up with Chad inside

In a draft filled with players from small schools, the Oakland A's made a lot of historical picks this week. A number of their draft choices were the highest picks ever in their respective school histories. Chad Lee is another one of those players.

Lee, a 6'4'' right-hander from Oklahoma City, became the highest pick in the history of Barton County Community College when he was taken with the 128th pick in the draft. Lee, a hard-throwing right-hander, struck out 51 batters in 43 innings for Barton in 2006. Despite posting a 5.02 ERA, many teams were drawn to Lee's ability to throw in the mid-90s with good movement, so it wasn't a surprise to Lee when his name was called within the first five rounds of the draft.

"It was a lot of fun. I had my family with me, mostly relatives, about six or seven people," Lee said two days after being selected.

"Originally I thought I was going to be a third rounder, but I didn't slide too far, so I was still really happy about that."

Lee may have fallen a bit in the draft because of questions about his health. He had a torn ACL almost two years ago and there were reports of a sore arm this season. Lee said that he was healthy on Thursday and ready to go.

Although Lee made three starts this season, the bulk of his work came out of the bullpen. Some speculated that the move to the bullpen was due to arm soreness, but Lee indicated that being a reliever was a matter of preference.

"I kind of prefer closing and coming out of the bullpen because that is what I am used to, but I'll do whatever they want me to do," Lee said.

"I have sort of conditioned myself to be a reliever and my arm recovers really quickly from one outing to the next one."

Lee has better pure stuff then most fourth round picks, so if he is 100 percent healthy, many scouts believe that the A's will have gotten a steal. Lee's fastball has been clocked in the mid-90s, but he doesn't rely on his fastball alone.

"My best strikeout pitch is my curveball. I throw a 12-6 curve. I also have been working on a change-up that I can use to keep hitters off-balance," Lee said.

Like many players, Lee had only an inkling of who might be taking him before the draft.

"There were a couple of other teams who were expressing a lot of interest before the draft, but on the day of the draft the A's called me and made it clear that they were interested and that they thought they could get me at [the slot that he was selected]," Lee said.

Lee grew up in Oklahoma and, therefore, was a fan of his "hometown" team, the A's AL West rival Texas Rangers. Still, there may have been early hints of his future in the green and gold, even way back when he was a kid.

"My little league team for eight years was called the A's, so that was kind of funny. Growing up around here, I have always been kind of a Rangers fan, but I always respected the A's lot," Lee said.

"I don't really know a lot about the [A's] organization. I really like the area scout, he's a really good guy. I know that they have a reputation for drafting and developing their own players, so that is a good thing for me. They aren't like the Yankees or a team like that who trades for a lot of players."

Although Lee has a scholarship offer to the University of Oklahoma on the table, he indicated on Thursday that he was leaning towards going pro.

"I still have to wait for the local area scout to come to my house to talk about the specifics. We haven't arranged all of that yet, but right now it looks pretty good for me to sign," Lee said.

"[Being a professional baseball player] is definitely something I dreamed about my whole life."

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