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Yankees make pitching a theme in Draft

NEW YORK -- After eight months of not having the name Mariano Rivera in their organization, the Yankees couldn't wait any longer.

With the 872nd pick in the 29th round on Saturday, New York selected Mariano Rivera III, son of the Yankees legend and arguably the greatest closer in baseball history. A 5-foot-11 sophomore from Iona College, he started 12 games for the Gaels in 2014, going 2-6 with a 5.40 ERA over 70 innings.

The 155-pound righty shies away from comparison. He doesn't like it. Instead of throwing his dad's signature cut fastball, his out pitch is a slider. And now, he'll have time to develop it with an organization he's familiar with, and one this year that dedicated its Draft to pitchers.

If the first five selections were any indication, the Yankees' 2014 Draft was stockpiled with arms. After selecting five straight pitchers, led by second-round selection Jacob Lindgren, New York went on to take 24 hurlers, the most it's selected since 2011, when it chose 35.

Lindgren, a hard-throwing junior from Bay St. Louis, Miss., was ranked by as the No. 51-ranked prospect entering the Draft, and he has been touted as one of the nastiest relievers in college baseball.

In 26 appearances this season for Mississippi State, the 21-year-old Lindgren was 6-1 with three saves and a team-leading 0.81 ERA. He ranked first among all relievers nationally with 100 strikeouts, leading the country with 16.3 K's per nine innings.

"This year, it was hard to figure out what was getting down to us, because [No.] 55 was so much different than last year, when we had the three guys [in the first round]," said director of scouting Damon Oppenheimer on Friday. "Lindgren, I think, was well worth it for the first pick. He's going to be a reliever … a power reliever that has two-plus pitches and strikes guys out at a tremendous rate. We were really excited to get him where we got him."

Oppenheimer was very pleased with his first several picks, which he felt were early steals.

"I think we got some good arms," said Oppenheimer. "Obviously, we think that we've got some good arms. I think the Jordan Foley kid we got in the fifth was somebody we thought might go earlier and Jordan Montgomery in the fourth from South Carolina, a left-hander with a swing-and-miss changeup. I think that we did pretty darn good today considering what was in this Draft."

Foley, 20, a hard-throwing right-hander from Central Michigan University, was a reselection by the Yankees, having also been taken in the 26th round in the 2011 Draft out of high school in Texas. He came north and attended college in the Upper Midwest when his family moved to Michigan.

In the Cape Cod League last year, Foley maintained a 93-96-mph fastball deep into games, and he could project either as a starter or as a reliever.

Montgomery was 8-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts this season for the University of South Carolina. In 100 innings, the 21-year-old allowed 45 runs (38 earned) and 93 hits, with 29 walks and 95 strikeouts.

Montgomery cracked South Carolina's rotation as a freshman, starring at the College World Series, and he has been the Gamecocks' top starter for the past two seasons. Scouts have rated Montgomery as a good bet to reach his big league rotation potential, probably at the back end.

The Yankees drafted only seven high school players (mostly in the last few rounds), two of whom were pitchers at the Salisbury School in Connecticut. The trend for most of the Draft seemed to be sticking with college-level talent.

"I think we've had success getting guys to the league both as high school players and as college players," said Oppenheimer. "But it seems like we're getting some college guys up there a little quicker and through the system a little quicker. So if all's equal right now, we're kind of looking at it that we might lean toward the college guy if everything's equal."

Later in the second round and early into the third round, the Yankees began addressing some positional needs. After choosing Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Jonathon Holder in the sixth round, three of the next seven picks were spent on first basemen. The Yanks took University of California-Irvine's Connor Spencer -- who batted .364 (84-for-231) with 15 doubles, five triples and one homer, collecting 43 RBIs -- in the eighth round.

In the 12th and 13th rounds, the Yanks went south to select Chris Gittens, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder from Grayson Country College in Texas, and Bo Thompson, a shorter, bulkier power bat from The Citadel. Thompson has just started learning first base, but he provides a lot of pop and led the team with nine home runs.

Sean Carley (West Virginia) and Andrew Chin (Boston College), selected in the 14th and 15th rounds, respectively, were both reselections, too. They each had impressive 2014 campaigns after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2012.

The Yankees also drafted two catchers this year. Collin Slaybaugh, taken in the 26th round, was named the Pac-12 Conference Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and hit .305 during his four-year career at Washington State University. The other draftee was Christopher Hudgins, selected out of Valhalla High School in California in the 35th round.

Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for

New York Yankees