Day after deadline, new Rays visit the Trop
Seattle natives Sale, Vettleson to report soon to GCL
ST. PETERSBURG -- Josh Sale had already been through the excitement of being selected in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft -- the realization that he was ready to be a professional baseball player and the "big poker game" of negotiating a deal with the Rays. But on Monday at midnight ET, he said a new thought came to mind: "It all starts now."
Sale and Drew Vettleson, two of Tampa Bay's top three picks in the 2010 Draft, officially agreed to deals with the club at the last minute before Monday's deadline, and the two Seattle-area prospects were in Tropicana Field on Tuesday afternoon, sporting Rays hats as they met the team's coaches and players.
Waiting in their hotel rooms Monday night was difficult for both players, and the subsequent excitement of making their deals official kept them up most of the night.
Vettleson said he couldn't watch TV as the deadline approached, instead "laying in my bed, eyes closed, head back, waiting for something to happen." Sale, meanwhile, said he didn't end up falling asleep until around 7 a.m. But now that the wait is over and the post-signing wave of emotions has subsided, the two are ready to get back to work -- and the Rays' front office is excited to see them on the field.
"There aren't a lot of things that we feel like our pro development staff needs to do with them of any major consequence. We're optimistic that they'll move pretty quickly because of how gifted they are with their bats," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We're going to do everything we can to get them in the Major Leagues as quickly as possible. Beyond the talent, their work ethic is off the charts. That will certainly help and aid in those efforts."
Although the negotiations with Sale and Vettleson, the 17th and 42nd overall picks, respectively, went right down to the wire, Friedman said the Rays were still confident they could sign the two Seattle-area natives due to their desire to play professional baseball. Since they signed so late, however, they will likely not play in any games for the Gulf Coast League Rays when they make their way down to Port Charlotte, Fla., in a few days.
For now, Sale and Vettleson said they will return home for a day or two, pack up everything they need, report to the Rays to work out, meet their teammates, watch a few games and prepare for the instructional league.
"Once I got drafted, it was fun. I had a chance to become a pro. It didn't really come to life until last night at 12 o'clock," Sale said. "It's been a long ride throughout the summer. ... Now that it's actually come to fruition, I'm happy the way it turned out. I'm ready to go."
By the time Monday's deadline had come and gone, the Rays signed 35 of their 53 picks, including all of their first six, eight of their first nine and 17 of their first 19. Although it is difficult to gauge a Draft class until years later, scouting director R.J. Harrison said there were a lot of positive emotions surrounding this year's crop of prospects.
"I think it's satisfaction, it's excitement to get them out playing and watching them over the next couple, three years and watch them develop," Harrison said. "With the extra picks we had this year and some of the later picks we were able to add, we're really excited about this. We got some good college players, and we put 10 high school kids into our system -- all kids that we think have big upside. Now, we've just got to see which ones are going to end up fighting their way through."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.