Christopher Mason off to a great start

Former 2nd round pick, Chris Mason, is off to an exceptional start with the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League. In his first six starts of the year, Mason is 4-0 with 32 strikeouts and a 1.87 ERA.

Chris Mason, the Devil Rays second choice of the 2005 draft, is having a breakout year with the Montgomery Biscuits in his second full season of professional baseball. Mason, who broke Kevin Millwoood's school record for strikeouts in a single season (191) as a prep senior at Bessemer City High School in North Carolina, has been dominant at times for the Biscuits. In his first six starts, the 22 year old is 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA and 32 strikeouts. He has allowed 33 hits in 33.2 innings of work and opponents are batting just .256 off of of him. Mason, who has exceptional control (only 6 walks), could continue to rise through the system at a rapid pace due to the starting pitching struggles in Durham and Tampa Bay.

Mason was a standout pitcher for three seasons at the UNC Greensboro. As a junior in 2005, he was named Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year after posting an impressive 2.88 ERA in 118.2 innings. During 2005, Mason earned Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors for his performance against East Tennessee State University. In one of the most dominant pitching performances in UNC Greensboro history, Mason struck out a school record 16 batters in one game in front of a plethora of scouts that came to see him pitch. In three seasons at the school, Mason compiled a career record of 14-10 and was also one of the Spartans top offensive players. Along with winning conference pitcher of the year in 2005, Mason also hit .324 with 7 HR and 36 RBIS.

After such a stellar collegiate career, Mason was one of the most highly touted pitching prospects headed in to the 2005 draft. After the Devil Rays selected him in 2005, Mason quickly showed promise in brief stops at Hudson Valley and Southwest Michigan. In 9 games for the Renegades, Mason recorded a 2.45 ERA in 15.0 innings of relief work that earned him the call up to Southwest Michigan. In a brief stint in Michigan, Mason finished his professional debut with a 1.82 ERA in 18.0 innings.

The anticipation was high after a strong showing in his rookie season, but Mason had what many scouts considered to be a disappointing year in 2006. Playing with other top prospects, Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria, in the California League for Visalia, Mason struggled at times. He finished the season with a 12-10 record and a 5.02 ERA in 27 starts. Evan after a down year, some scouts did remain very high on him because of the potential he showed showed in several strong outings. In 152.1 innings in 2006, he allowed 177 hits with 111 strikeouts.

Even with the disappointment after last year, the organization remains high on Mason. This season will be a huge indicator of his future success. If he continues to put up the numbers he has in his first few starts in Montgomery, Mason is going to be in Tampa Bay's plans for years to come. Keep an eye on him.

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