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McCullers expects smooth process with Astros

TAMPA, Fla. -- Surrounded by a small group of family and friends at his home, Lance McCullers Jr. had heard 40 other names called Monday night. He'd had conversations with at least five teams and been told that he would be taken with their next pick, only to find himself still waiting.

He kept waiting until the Compensation Round at pick No. 41 -- the exact spot his father was drafted 30 years earlier -- when McCullers was selected by the Astros and ended what he admitted to be an emotional roller coaster.

After all the waiting, McCullers still has a decision to make: Will he accept whatever the Astros offer him or will he honor his commitment to the University of Florida?

Speaking Tuesday night at a small news conference held upstairs at the family's home, McCullers answered that question essentially the same way he did before the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, saying he will go through the negotiating process with an open mind and accept any offer he and his family find to be fair. But he and his father, Lance McCullers Sr., spoke optimistically about signing a deal with Houston.

"I have a good feeling that it's going to go pretty smoothly. I just have that feeling with what they're trying to do in Houston," McCullers Sr. said. "They're trying to make it a great organization again. They took kids they really wanted to sign and get in their organization."

McCullers Jr. had noticed Astros scouts at some of his games, but he plainly said he didn't consider them a realistic option and didn't expect to be around at pick No. 41. But Houston started off the evening with a surprise of its own, taking shortstop Carlos Correa first overall and potentially freeing up additional funds to give McCullers Jr. a larger bonus than the approximately $1.258 million assigned to the 41st slot.

"I honestly feel, taking a step back and looking at it today, that it's probably going to work out the best for me personally," McCullers Jr. said. "It could be a potentially great situation, and we'll just have to wait and see with negotiations."

"I believe that we will sign Lance McCullers and he will be a Houston Astro," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday night.

The A's expressed the most interest in McCullers Jr., as his father said they had him third on their Draft board. Throughout the course of the Draft, there were more conversations with the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds and Nationals, McCullers Sr. said.

"I heard from other teams saying I could possibly be their pick, and you kind of get excited about that, and it doesn't work out. I know there were a lot of options out there, there's a lot of great baseball players, so I'm not worried about that," McCullers Jr. said. "It didn't have anything to do with Scott [Boras, his advisor]. If teams took time to listen and actually show interest in me, then they would know that I wasn't an impossible sign.

"I was just simply asking for teams to recognize that I'm one of the best pitchers in the country and that I have a strong commitment to Florida, and I'm not just going to go out there and throw my education away for nothing. At the end of the day, I ended up where I was supposed to be. If it works out, then I'm really excited to be a Houston Astro."

The negotiations will center on three issues, McCullers Jr. said: whether the Astros will "treat me the right way," whether they will pay for his college education in the future and, most importantly, how much they will offer him. No formal offer has been made yet, and he had only briefly spoken with the Astros' front office Monday night.

"I'm even-keeled. I'm not swayed one way or the other," said McCullers Jr., who also spoke with Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan on Tuesday. "We're going to let this process unfold the way it should, and we'll evaluate [where I'll go] next year. The most important thing to me is that I'm just pitching."

McCullers Sr. was committed to the University of Miami when the Phillies drafted him No. 41 overall in 1982, and he nearly opted to attend school before agreeing to a $65,000 signing bonus. He was hopeful his son will get a deal in place well before the July 13 deadline.

"If he got it ironed out and everything was done, and it was two weeks from today and they wanted him out there, it'd be fine. Hopefully, it doesn't take the whole month," McCullers Sr. said. "If you can start [your career] and have a good approach with the organization, it makes it easier down the road for you, too, because it's not like you're trying to kill them now. You're trying to work with them and get everything done. You get off to a head start."

Coincidentally, McCullers Sr. wore No. 41 for the majority of his seven-year Major League career, and his son said he'd like to wear the same number if he goes pro.

"I think it was just coincidence. It's kind of cool that we're 30 years apart at the same pick. What that means, I can't tell you," McCullers Jr. said. "It was just something else that we could. ... I don't want to say validate, but you could kind of throw it along with going at that pick."

Houston Astros