Tribe takes O's closer Britton's cousin in Rd. 12

June 15th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- When Dante Mendoza's name went uncalled in the MLB Draft's first two days, the high school pitcher received a text from his cousin on Tuesday night.

"He said not to worry," Mendoza said, "and that, 'You still have tomorrow.'"

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Mendoza's cousin happens to be Orioles closer Zach Britton, who knows a thing or two about how the business of baseball works. Britton's encouraging note paid off on Wednesday, when the Indians selected Mendoza -- a right-hander out of Torrance High School in California -- in the 12th round on the third and final day of the Draft.

Last year, Mendoza got to watch from afar as his cousin (on his dad's side) dominated hitters in an historic season for Baltimore, collecting 47 saves and posting a 0.54 ERA. On Wednesday, it was Britton's turn to get some enjoyment from seeing Mendoza selected by Cleveland.

"Very smart kid," Britton said in a text to's Orioles reporter Brittany Ghiroli. "Tons of projection. Once he adds strength and muscle ... [he] has a chance to have big-time stuff."

Mendoza, 18, features a fastball, curveball and changeup and knows he has a lot of room to grow as a pitcher. The 6-foot-5, 186-pound righty posted a 1.62 ERA with 119 strikeouts and 34 walks in 108 varsity innings in high school, with a 1.56 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 45 innings as a senior.

Last summer, Mendoza played for a travel team established by the Indians in Jupiter, Fla., for a showcase event in October. Between that, and forming a good relationship with area scout Carlos Muniz, Mendoza was not only familiar with the Indians, but happy that they were the ones to take him in the Draft.

"It was surreal. It's something that you dream of," Mendoza said of being drafted. "I had kind of an idea that it was going to happen, or maybe it'd happen, but I didn't know when or even if it was going to be the Indians or not. So, it was super cool."

And Mendoza feels fortunate to have a resource like Britton only a text or call away.

"It's very helpful," Mendoza said. "He talked me through the whole process, whether to sign or go to college, and he'll probably still help me."