Bucs take Clemson's Moskos in 1st round
The Pirates have made their share of unpredictable first-round selections in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, from converting a power-hitting first baseman into a relief pitcher to using the first overall pick on a pitcher projected as a No. 3 starter. This time, they picked a closer who wants to be a starter. Even Clemson left-hander Daniel Moskos was stunned when the Pirates picked him in the first round Thursday, but only because he didn't expect to go fourth overall. Baseball America ranked him the fifth-best pitching prospect in the draft and the No. 8 prospect overall. "To be completely honest, I knew there was a possibility I could go to the Pirates, although I thought it was a slight chance," Moskos said by telephone from Starkville, Miss., where he's scheduled to start against Mississippi State at 12 p.m. today in a NCAA Super Regional. "I didn't think it was actually a high percentage. "I actually found out I was going to be a Pirate when I was watching the draft show with my parents. I couldn't believe it. It was a big shock." While Moskos said he was pinching himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming, the choice shouldn't have come as a total surprise. Moskos is the eighth pitcher taken in the first round by the Pirates in the past 10 years and the fourth under Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield. "The thing is, we had the opportunity to draft a pitcher that we really like," Littlefield said. "He's accomplished a lot. He's a talented guy with a repertoire of pitches that's going to allow him to be successful in the Major Leagues." The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Moskos posted a 0.86 ERA with six saves in 18 appearances for the USA national team last summer. After working as a reliever and closer the past two seasons at Clemson, Moskos moved into the starting rotation midway through this season and is 3-5 with a 2.91 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 741/3 innings in 26 games. "I prefer starting," Moskos said. "I really like the routine I can get into, as far as how my throwing, working out and conditioning goes. I believe the path to the majors is a little quicker as a reliever, but I'm willing to give myself a little more time to be a starter." Moskos later added, "however they want to use me is fine. I just want to get out there and play some baseball." Once the Pirates sign Moskos -- he could command a signing bonus in the $2.65 million to $2.75 million range -- Littlefield, senior director of player development Brian Graham and senior scouting director Ed Creech will determine whether Moskos is a starter or reliever. "We like him in both roles. I think the role he's probably going to end up in is closer," Creech said. "He's got the mentality for it. He's an aggressive kid. He throws strikes. He's got power pitches." The Pirates like the four pitches in Moskos' repertoire: A two- or four-seam fastball that tops out at 95 mph; a curveball Moskos described as 12-to-6 (clockwise); a "put-away" slider with good sink at the end; and a changeup. Though Creech said Moskos is comparable to former Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez -- with the exception of the power breaking pitches -- Littlefield isn't ready to designate Moskos as a future closer just yet. "That's just part of what he's done," Littlefield said. "He obviously has the ability and, to some degree, the mental makeup to handle closing. Closing is not for everybody. "He seems to have done well at it, but relative to him entering professional baseball, it doesn't matter too much. The important thing is the end game, how they get there." Littlefield can't stress that enough. Arm injuries have sidetracked five of the Pirates' past six pitchers selected in the first round, as only Paul Maholm has stayed healthy. Moskos said the Pirates' run of bad luck, with Tommy John surgeries sidelining their top pitching prospects, "doesn't alarm me at all." "Knock on wood, I haven't had any trouble with my arm. I'm hoping to keep myself in good shape," Moskos said, his two taps audible over the speakerphone, "and not to have to worry about anything like that in my future."
First day picks Here are the five players the Pirates selected on the first day of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, which continues today: Round -- Pick -- Player -- Pos. -- School 1st -- 4th -- Daniel Moskos -- LHP -- Clemson 2nd -- 68th -- Duke Welker -- RHP -- Arkansas 3rd -- 98th -- Brian Friday -- SS -- Rice 4th -- 128th -- Quincy Lattimore -- OF -- Apex (N.C.) Middle Creek HS 5th -- 158th -- Andrew Walker -- C -- Texas Christian