Rays select USF pitcher Phoenix Sanders in 10th round
His anxiety level increased with each passing round of the big-league draft Tuesday, though Phoenix Sanders really needn't have stressed.
He was soaking in good USF karma all along.
The Bulls' Friday night starter the last two seasons, Sanders was at the Niceville home of former USF C Scott Hemond -- highest-drafted player in program history -- when he got the call that the Rays had taken him in the 10th round (with the 289th overall pick).
Sanders' girlfriend, Haleigh, is the daughter of Hemond, taken by the A's with the 14th overall pick in 1986. The A's, in fact, were the first team to phone Sanders on Tuesday.
He'll gladly take the Rays, known for their affinity for guys with crafty sliders.
"They sent me a questionnaire and I met with them once," Sanders said. "And it wasn't until about the eighth round rolled around, their area scout gave me a call and was like, 'Hey, what's your signability? Are you good to sign for this dollar amount?' I was like, 'Yeah, I'm ready to go.'
"I hadn't heard anything from them, and (USF assistant) Chris Cates had called me and said, 'Hey, a couple of teams are gonna look at you in the 10th round.' And then I looked up and the Rays selected me. It was a feeling of relief."
Sanders, who turned 22 last week, was the second pitcher with USF ties to be drafted Tuesday; signee Jackson Tetreault -- a former Lennard High standout -- was drafted by the Nationals in the seventh round.
Though his approximate pick value is $136,000 (according to MLB.com), Sanders indicated he'll likely sign for a bit less.
"I think they did the whole senior-saver kind of thing," he said.
"They value me as a 10th-round pick, so again, I saved them money. But I feel like they're getting a guy that's worth that pick. The money was never a big thing, I just wanted an opportunity, and I can't thank the Rays enough for giving me that opportunity."
Equipped with a modest fastball (89-91 mph), Sanders subsisted on his slider in two seasons with the Bulls. In 31 career starts, he finished 11-7 with a 3.46 ERA, striking out 204 batters in 192.1 innings. His 109 strikeouts in 2017 ranked seventh on USF's single-season list.
"I think day-in and day-out I showed for two years you know what you're gonna get," he said. "I'm gonna go out there and throw strikes, be a good teammate and try to keep my team in it as long as I can."