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Rays sign first-round Draft pick Ciuffo

NEW YORK -- The Rays agreed to terms Thursday with their first-round pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, catcher Nick Ciuffo, and announced his signing on Friday, after he had passed a physical.

"With the slot value where it was, it was just really too good of a deal to turn down," said Ciuffo on a Friday afternoon conference call.

Ciuffo, 18, was the 21st overall selection. He will receive a $1,974,700 bonus, which matches the recommended slot value for the pick.

"We like his tools and the chance [for him] to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said. "He's a high school kid that's going to start his journey and work his way through the Minor Leagues. He's got a plus arm, average defender, and we like his bat and power. And he's a tough kid. We like the kid."

Ciuffo is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds and bats left-handed. The product of Lexington (S.C.) High School had made a commitment to play at South Carolina. When asked what he thought his toughest adjustment would be, the youngster cited two areas.

"I think getting used to the wood bat, that's obviously a challenge," Ciuffo said. "But I think the biggest thing for me will be communicating with Spanish-speaking pitchers. You know, I've never really been around Spanish-speaking people, and in my mind, that's going to be my biggest adjustment, kind of adjusting to their style."

As for the bonus money, which obviously was enough to change the lifestyle of an 18-year-old, Ciuffo sounded grounded when asked what plans he had for his newly acquired wealth.

"I'll probably get a car, then put it away," said Ciuffo, noting that he has financial people, including his mother, to take care of his money. "The biggest thing for me is to get this opportunity to be in a great organization and get going and start playing."

Ciuffo was asked on the night the Rays drafted him if he thought the team's catching situation within the organization would allow him to move more quickly to the Major Leagues.

"It's hard to say," Ciuffo said. "I wouldn't really say they haven't had success when it comes to developing catchers. I'm not really sure about who they've had in the past. But I can guarantee everybody in Tampa Bay and everybody in the state of Florida one thing. I can't promise you that I'm going to get to the big leagues, but I can promise you there won't be another catcher coming out of this Draft that's going to work harder than me to get to the big leagues."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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