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Tampa Bay Rays' top pick Taylor Guerrieri finally speaks but reveals little of past 'incident'

ST. PETERSBURG — The unusual four days of silence since being the Rays' first-round pick in Monday's draft Taylor Guer­rieri was willing to explain: "I was at the beach with my family and friends just enjoying this whole opportunity."

But otherwise, Guerrieri said little in his first public comments Friday to address questions about his past — specifically the decision to change high schools during his senior season — and concerns about his maturity and makeup.

If anything, he created more by referring several times to an "incident" but declining to provide any details or explanation.

"I'm not going to talk about it," he said. "I've talked about it with the team, and they're fine with it. It was just something minor. It wasn't anything big. And we've moved on from it."

South Carolina and Georgia public records and media reports don't show any legal issues, though juvenile cases are not included. Guerrieri turned 18 in December.

"There's been a lot of rumors. A lot of it's not true," he said. "That's all I can really say. A lot of it's not true. I've moved on from what happened.

"And that's it."

Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said the Rays are not concerned and there has been "a lot of misinformation" and things being "blown out of proportion."

Guerrieri wasn't much more forthcoming about his future, saying he expects talks with the Rays — which are expected to start next week when Harrison visits — to be "a long process."

He said he was "very excited" to be taken by the Rays with the No. 24 pick and considered it "a great opportunity," but he also indicated he won't be an easy sign given his commitment to the University of South Carolina.

"I've always pictured myself playing college baseball first before any professional baseball takes place," he said. "Huge Gamecocks fan, still very committed to Carolina. I'm looking forward to the opportunity with them, too. It's going to be a tough decision."

Guerrieri spoke on a conference call, and another person could be heard at times whispering answers to him.

His official line is he transferred from North Augusta High (near Augusta, Ga.) 80 miles to Spring Valley High in Columbia, S.C., "to be closer" to the university campus, which is also in Columbia, and "just to get a feel for everything else up here."

But why do so in late October of his senior year as opposed to during the summer?

"That's the best time we thought we could do it," he said. "Like I said, we had a little incident and moved on from it."

Guerrieri was considered one of the top high school pitchers in the draft, and his fall to the Rays at the No. 24 spot also raised questions.

"We waited a little longer than we were expecting to, but it worked out just fine," he said. "We're in a good spot, we feel like.

"So we're happy how it worked out."

The No. 24 pick last year, Cal State Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown, signed with the Giants for a bonus of $1.425 million. The Rays have until Aug. 15 to sign Guerrieri, though they would get the 24th pick in next year's draft if they don't.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays' top pick Taylor Guerrieri finally speaks but reveals little of past 'incident' 06/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2011 12:16am]

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