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Rangers pick Stafford eager for second chance

ARLINGTON -- Sam Stafford spent his sophomore season, and the beginning of his junior year, mostly as a midweek starter at the University of Texas.

By the end of 2011, Stafford had established himself as a solid No. 2 option behind national player of the year Taylor Jungmann, the Brewers' first-round pick a year ago. The Longhorns made their record 34th appearance at the College World Series, as Stafford solidified his spot as the team's ace in 2012.

But a shoulder injury kept him from signing with the Yankees, who took him in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Two surgeries later, and Stafford was lost for his entire senior season. Texas went on to miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.

"It was really difficult," Stafford said. "All I had on my mind was winning a national championship. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to do that [or] play with my teammates. It's definitely a humbling experience, because the game can be taken away from you at any time."

Stafford has yet to make a full recovery and is still nearly two months away from being able to throw. But the Longhorns left-hander was taken in the 13th round with the No. 426 overall pick by the Rangers on Tuesday. One of three players from the Lone Star State selected by the Rangers on Day 2 of the Draft, Stafford is eager to begin his professional career.

"I'm extremely excited," Stafford said. "In my opinion, as a pitcher, you can't have a better boss than Nolan Ryan. He's the best one to do it. It'll be a lot of fun. I'm a Texas guy, so I'm extremely excited to be staying with a Texas team."

Galveston Ball High outfielder Nick Williams, the second of two second-round picks made by the Rangers, and University of Texas-Arlington outfielder Preston Beck were the other two Texans taken by the Rangers on Tuesday. Beck, a Dallas native, batted .335 with 14 home runs and a school-record 71 RBIs this season.

"Being a local kid at UT-Arlington, we had a chance to scout [Beck] a lot," said Rangers director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg. "This guy is going to have a seamless transition at the next level with a wood bat. He should be a very good addition to the Texas Rangers organization. We like the kid, we like the makeup. It was an easy pick for us."

Several members of the Rangers' scouting department saw Stafford pitch before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, including crosscheckers John Booer and Randy Taylor and scout Jay Heafner.

"We have a history with him," said senior director of player personnel A.J. Preller. "We're confident with our medical staff and with his body type as a left-handed pitcher and the makeup of Sam -- he can pitch for us."

Stafford, who has family in the Metroplex area, is rehabbing five days a week and working with a doctor in Houston. He didn't expect to be taken near the second round, where he was picked last year. But Stafford does expect to be a successful pitcher again.

"I don't want to return to what I was. I want to come back better," Stafford said. "I'm fully confident that, in due time, I'll make a 100 percent recovery and I'm going to toe that rubber again."

As a junior in 2011, Stafford went 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA over 81 1/3 innings while striking out 91, walking 42 and holding opposing hitters to a .189 batting average.

"We look forward to him being a Texas Ranger," Fagg said. "We expect him to make a recovery and get on the mound here shortly. The timeframe of that we're not quite certain of at this point, but we're going to get our medical staff around him and see where we'll go moving forward."

Stafford was one of three players taken from the University of Texas on Tuesday, as teammates Jonathan Walsh, the Longhorns' left fielder, and left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner were taken by the Angels and Phillies, respectively.

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