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Bruso’s draft stock rises

Column by Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

With the Major League Baseball amateur draft only two weeks away, South Shore’s sports community should be pumped by the prospects of Greg Bruso being selected.

If the scouts aren’t yet convinced by his California Collegiate Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year season and tales of unparalleled work ethic, then clubs should consider what Bruso pulled off in one day last summer.

In a 17-hour period, Bruso ascended and descended Freel Peak, Pyramid Peak and Mount Tallac.

“I love to hike and it was fun to say we did that,” said Bruso, who performed the unique triple with Eddie McDonnell.

That feat seems to serve as a metaphor for what Bruso is trying to accomplish following an undistinguished career at UC Davis until his senior season. In his first three seasons as an Aggie, was 9-15.

But in one spectacular season, Bruso caught the eye of scouts — notably the Los Angeles Dodgers — by pitching a cerebral style built on off-speed pitches and occasional offerings better than 90 mph.

“He’s had a good run here,” said Aggies retiring coach Phil Swimley. “I’ll remember his consistency and his concentration. He just doesn’t make mistakes.”

Besides a lofty 10-4 record, the final chapter of Bruso’s Davis career read: conference-leading 1.94 earned run average, three shutouts, 11 complete games and 100 strikeouts.

Those achievements not only allowed him to earn the conference’s top pitcher award, but on May 17 Bruso was selected the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings West Region Pitcher of the Year.

Naturally, those honors and his improvement have made Bruso a little more confident about being the first South Shore baseball player drafted since pitcher Jordan Romero was taken by the Baltimore Orioles in 1994.

“Oh yeah, I feel a lot better about my chances,” Bruso said. “Now, it’s up to them if they want to draft me.”

Swimley says he’d be surprised if Bruso goes undrafted. Former Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league pitcher Reve Ramos says the league’s 30 clubs would get a great return on their investment by taking Bruso.

“How can’t you draft a young man like that,” Ramos said. “He would rub off on the other team members with how intense he is about his goals and how he applies it.

“I’d tell any scout, he’ll never change. He’s going to be this way all through life. With all the work he’s done, he’ll be worth every nickel they’ll ever pay him in leadership and in wins … he’ll produce.”

Ramos learned how serious Bruso was about pitching while Bruso was preparing to pitch for Ron McNutt’s dynamite summer club, the Carson Capitols. Struggling to add speed and movement to his fastball, Ramos introduced Bruso to what now serves as his bread-and-butter pitch, the changeup.

“I’ve always been hopeful because of how hungry he was to put the dream away and get to work,” Ramos said. “Any pitcher can strive to throw hard, but when you can’t, hard work means to learn the changeup. The changeup teaches pitching strategy and humility, and only when you master the changeup, can you master everything else.”

Even a great pitcher like hard-throwing Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks doesn’t have as many pitches in his arsenal as Bruso and, in turn, doesn’t think as much on the mound.

“Randy Johnson won’t learn the changeup until he doesn’t have any movement on his fastball,” Ramos said. “If he changed speeds, he’d be unstoppable. He could be the best pitcher who ever lived.”

The Philadelphia Phillies have joined the Bruso watch late, scheduling the right-hander a workout for Wednesday at a Sacramento-area high school.

“I’ve worked hard, and I believe if you work hard, then good things are going to happen to you,” Bruso said.

And for once, Bruso will need to spend a couple of lazy days June 4 and 5, sitting by the phone.

It’s a call that he deserves.


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