Baseball: Trio of Pitt pitchers taken in MLB Draft over weekend


By Dan Sostek / Staff Writer

For the second year in a row, the University of Pittsburgh baseball team saw three of its players selected in the annual MLB First-Year Player Draft.

In 2013, pitcher Ethan Mildren (12th round by the Twins), catcher Elvin Soto (16th round by the Diamondbacks) and Matt Wotherspoon (20th round by the Tigers) were picked. This year, a trio of Pitt pitchers were chosen — reliever Luke Curtis and starting pitchers Joseph Harvey and Wotherspoon, who went unsigned and returned to Pitt for another year, were scooped up by teams on Saturday, June 7, the third day of the draft.

Curtis was the first Panther selected. The Milwaukee Brewers took him in the 18th round. 

As one of Pitt’s best arms out of the bullpen this season, Curtis, a redshirt junior, led the team with a 2.17 ERA, allowing just seven runs in 29 innings while striking out 25. 

Despite this accomplishment, Curtis understands that this is just the start of a long journey. Since signing his contract, he has travelled to Montana where he will play for the team’s advanced rookie league affiliate, the Helena Brewers. They begin their season on Monday, June 16. 

“I can only hope to someday be able to step foot on the mound at [the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium] Miller Park,” Curtis, who has never been to Milwaukee, said. “This is all a great accomplishment, but it’s just the beginning of a long road ahead of me.”

Redshirt junior Joseph Harvey was selected in the 19th round by the New York Yankees. 

Harvey popped up on scouts’ radars this year after having a breakout season as a starter after alternating between starting and the bullpen the previous season. Harvey tallied an impressive streak during the season of 34.1 consecutive scoreless innings.

After the draft process, which Harvey described as “a bit nerve-wracking,” the 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound pitcher decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility to join the Yankees’ organization.

“It felt awesome to be drafted by the Yankees,” Harvey said, who posted a 2.90 ERA and a team-best 56 strikeouts in 2014. “The history and tradition associated with the organization is second to none.”

He declined to discuss specifics of his contract. 

The 22-year-old Harvey is also thrilled to be joining his teammate Wotherspoon in pinstripes. 

“It’s exciting to see Matt drafted by the Yankees too,” Harvey said. “It’s nice having a familiar face around in a new environment.”

They’ll start playing with the Yankees’ single-A short season team, the Staten Island Yankees, which begins its season on Friday, June 13. 

Despite being drafted 14 rounds later than he was last season, Wotherspoon felt nothing but elation upon his selection this time around.

“I wasn’t even sure that I was going to hear my name called,” Wotherspoon said, who ranks third all-time in program history in career strikeouts. “When it was called, it was just pure excitement.” 

In baseball, players can be selected out of high school, after time spent at a junior college or after playing three or more years at a four-year institution. Since Wotherspoon returned to school after his junior year, the Tigers lost his rights and couldn’t select him this year. 

The 6-foot-1-inch right-hander had a down year in 2014, posting a 4.44 ERA, but still managed to lead the team in innings pitched, while posting 55 strikeouts as a senior. 

Wotherspoon said the draft process was different this year. Since he was a senior, teams were no longer calling him “wondering how much it would take to get me away from school,”he said.

Like Harvey, Wotherspoon is grateful to be drafted by the Yankees.

“All I have heard about [the Yankees] is how first class everything they do is,” he said. 

He echoed Harvey’s excitement to start his professional career with a fellow Panther. 

“To have Joe here with me is huge,” he said. “It’s such a bonus to have a friend here.” 

The pair is currently at the club’s base in Tampa, Fla., completing physicals.

Boo Vazquez, a rising-senior outfielder, wasn’t selected in the draft despite projections saying he would. He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round out of high school but came to Pitt instead.