Part of unique '06 class, Indians righties glad to see event's growth in prominence
NEW YORK -- Indians right-handers Zach McAllister and Vinnie Pestano visited the MLB Fan Cave on Tuesday, a couple of days before Major League Baseball's annual First-Year Player Draft, and as members of the 2006 Draft class they represent the last of an old guard.
That was the year before the world changed for selecting baseball prospects into the professional ranks. The 2007 Draft marked a new era with the transformation into a live event, its first-round selections announced by Commissioner Bud Selig, initially staged at Disney World.
Today there is MLB Network and its studio as the site with club representatives and prospects in attendance; MLB.com/draft incorporating social media, video and the live Draft Tracker; and generally more of everything.
"It's great to be able to see the game evolve and get even bigger," McAllister said. "It's something the game needs, and it's nice to see not just how baseball has grown, but also how the fans and everything has grown with it."
"When you have 50 rounds, it's tough to get into the whole live Draft stuff," Pestano said. "You have seven rounds of football. [Ours] is just so big. They finally got a chance to get out there and get some exposure to it, and that's good for the sport."
McAllister and Pestano not only offer a unique perspective on the Draft today, but also on the circumstances of player selections. One was a high pick out of high school, one a lower pick out of college. The former was picked by the Yankees in the third round out of Illinois Valley Central High School, the latter by the Yankees in the 20th round out of Cal-State Fullerton.
"For me, it was exciting," McAllister said, harking back to those days when his father was a D-backs scout and he was a polished prep pitcher. "I had my mom and two family friends with me. I was watching it online, and the Internet actually went off right before the pick where I was taken. But it came right back on for that, and to be able to see my name scroll across the screen was a relief and a great experience."
Damon Oppenheimer, vice president and director of amateur scouting for the Yankees, said after drafting the 6-foot-6 right-hander in 2006: "That's a real quality high school pitcher. He's got a good arm, can pitch and throw strikes. He's a big kid."
On Aug. 20, 2010, McAllister was revealed to be the player to be named later in the July 30 trade between the Yankees and Indians for Austin Kearns. Ironically, the previous MLB player to visit the Fan Cave last week, David Adams, was reportedly the reason that the Mariners nixed a trade that July that would have sent a package of prospects, including McAllister, to Seattle for Cliff Lee. The Mariners determined that Adams had a broken ankle, ending that deal.
"Mine was a little more peculiar," Pestano said of how his road to The Show began. "I ended up blowing my elbow out about a month before the Draft, so I didn't really know what was going to happen. I ended up getting a call early in the morning on the second day, around 8 a.m., and it was the Indians saying they had drafted me. I've been very thankful every since."
Now they both play key roles on a club that is just one game behind the Tigers atop the American League Central.
McAllister, the No. 3 starter in the rotation, takes a 4-5 record and 3.43 ERA into his next scheduled start on Saturday at Detroit. He is coming off a pair of losses, including his first game this season of more than three earned runs allowed, in the last homestand finale against Tampa Bay.
"It's been exciting this year," he said. "It's been a fun team to be a part of. We expect to win, and that's our goal. If we don't win, we expect to win the next day. That's the mentality of this team, and it's been a great mentality to have."
Pestano, who was on the 15-day disabled list the first half of May, has four holds in 14 outings (keeping the opposition scoreless in nine games and totaling 14 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 8 BB, 14 K), with batters 4-for-18 with runners on.
"It is a different feel from the past couple of years," he said. "We had some success early in the season the past couple of years, and kind of faded at the end. But it truly is a different team, with a different vibe, and I think that's going to help us sustain that success the rest of the year."
They feel that there is a lesson for today's newest Draft prospects that should be heeded, looking at the disparate paths both took to get onto the same big league pitching staff now. And their suggestion for those prospects this week is to "enjoy the process."
"Everyone gets that same opportunity once they are drafted," McAllister said. "If you go out there and perform, pitch well, you will continue to have chances to get to that next level. I've been fortunate enough, and so has Vinnie, to get to the highest level and pitch well here, and hopefully that's something I can continue to do well for a long time."
"Once you're in, you're in," Pestano added. "There's a saying in baseball: 'If you don't like it, play better.' Once you're in pro ball, regardless of what round you're drafted in, you've got to go out there and put up your numbers, put your work in, and a first rounder, a 50th-rounder, whatever you are, you always have a chance to make it. The whole Draft position, it's great to go high, it feels good, but your goal is to get here and stay."