Dodger No. 1 Pick Turns Down Offer

With a deadline rapidly approaching , it seems unlikely at this time that the Dodgers will come to terms with Luke Hochevar, the first choice in the 2005 draft.

Although the club has offered the righthander a contract of over $2 million, the two sides are still far apart with Hochevar's agent, Scott Boras not bending from his demands that still are $2 million above that figure. With that in mind, Hochevar has stated that he will return to the University of Tennessee where he has a final season of eligibility.

Classes at Tennessee begin on Aug. 24. When Hochevar attends his first class, the Dodgers will lose all negotiating rights and Hochevar will become eligible for the 2006 draft.

The winner of the Roger Clemens Award as the collegiate Pitcher of the Year, Hochevar ordinarily would have been one of the first few players taken. However, when the demands that Boras was likely to impose became bandied about, clubs declined to select him until he free fell to the Dodgers , whose first choice didn't come until No. 40, a supplemental first round slot gained when the Mariners signed Adrian Beltré as a free agent.

The team's own first round spot at No. 23 was awarded to the Red Sox when Los Angeles signed free agent Derrick Lowe.

The Dodgers gambled on signing Hochevar because they felt he had a desire to turn professional now. The offer they made was commensurate with the money being given the first six choices this year. That, so far, has proved to be not nearly enough.

Another obstacle encountered was the insistence that the righthander be given a major league contract, something the Dodgers were disinclined to do.

Logan White, the director of amateur scouting, has served as point man for the club in the negotiations. "I think Luke is a great kid from a good family," he declared. "However, there's a point beyond which we cannot go. I believe that handing out too large contracts to players gets teams into financial difficulties.

"I think we have made a very fair offer. We've informed them that if this (his intention to return to school) is a negotiating ploy, don't expect us to rush in with a last-minute offer because that won't happen." As it is, the amount would be the highest ever awarded a Dodger draft choice. Righthander Ben Diggins received $2,200,000 as the team's first pick in the 2000 draft.

Negotiations have broken off so, unless one side blinks, Hochevar will pitch another season for Tennessee .