Citizen Staff Writer
Marana High grad Ryan Perry is a reliever for the Detroit Tigers – less than a year after helping pitch the University of Arizona to the super-regional of the NCAA Tournament.
Former UA reliever Mark Melancon made it to the big leagues with the New York Yankees before being sent back down last week for – of all players – Alex Rodriguez.
Ex-Wildcat Nick Hundley is the starting catcher for the San Diego Padres, while former UA outfielder Brian Anderson is working his way back from the disabled list for the Chicago White Sox.
They are just a few of the players UA coaches are using as recruiting bait to improve the future of a team sitting in eighth place in the Pac-10 with a 25-23 record. The Wildcats, trying to make a late run to reach the postseason, face Washington at home Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“How is my son going to develop? That’s a question we get a lot from parents,” UA coach Andy Lopez said. “We mention guys like Perry and Melancon and guys I had at Florida. It’s an important question in the recruiting process.”
UA has had 37 players drafted since 2003, with many on the verge of joining Perry, Hundley and Anderson in the majors.
Shortstop Jason Donald (Philadelphia), pitcher Brad Mills (Toronto), outfielder Trevor Crowe (Cleveland), pitcher John Meloan (Cleveland) and first baseman Jordan Brown (Cleveland) are all seeing time at the Triple-A level.
Lopez gets the credit, but he passes along the praise to chief recruiting assistant Mark Wasikowski.
“Waz has done a great job in recruiting. My assistants have done a marvelous job. We have not messed them up and they have developed,” Lopez said. “And really, none of those guys came in here as (guaranteed) first or second-round picks.”
Lopez developed major leaguers David Eckstein, Mark Ellis, Brad Wilkerson, David Ross, Ryan Shealy and Josh Fogg while at Florida before arriving at Arizona.
Perry leapfrogged through the Tigers organization to quickly make it to “The Show,” but Lopez remembers his first few days at UA being rough.
“We were working together in the pen, and he’s looking at me like I am talking a foreign language. Holy smokes, I am thinking I need an interpreter,” Lopez said. “Four year later, he’s in the big leagues.”
Perry entered this week with an 0-1 record in 12 1/3 innings for the Tigers. He’s allowed four earned runs, while striking out 10 and walking 11 in 13 games.
“I’m not surprised by his talent,” Lopez said. “He has a gorgeous delivery. He’s young and really eager to get better.”
As for Hundley, he’s established himself as an offensive weapon for the Padres and a solid catcher for a promising pitching staff.
“A good makeup (character) and work ethic will get you somewhere. Nick is proof of that,” Lopez said. “His work ethic is off the charts. He gets behind there and runs the show.”
Hundley is batting .263 through 22 games, with 8 RBIs and a homer.
Anderson, a former first-round pick of the White Sox in 2003, is a backup outfielder for Chicago but has been on the disabled list with a strained side muscle.
He’s beginning to take part in light batting practice, and could be back with the club by next week.
Anderson has developed a reputation for his defensive skills, but he must improve on his .227 career average. He was hitting .288 before going on the DL.
Potential arm issues dropped Melancon to the ninth round of the 2006 draft, but he was one of college baseball’s top closers from 2004-06.
Lopez told anybody who would listen not to worry about Melancon’s health or determination.
The Yankees listened. It took a few years, but Melancon made his first major league appearance a couple of weeks ago, shutting out Boston for two innings.
Melancon walked five in 3.1 innings, however, and was sent down to Triple-A Scranton-/Wilkes-Barre. He’s hoping to make it back to New York soon.
“I told the Yankees scouts when his arm was hurting that I would sign this guy in a heartbeat,” Lopez said.
“Mark would will himself to the big leagues,” the coach added. “Not for one second was I surprised he (made it).”
Arizona has had 37 players picked in the baseball draft since Andy Lopez took over in 2003:
Washington (23-25, 12-9) at Arizona (25-23, 8-13)
Saturday: 7 p.m.
Sunday: 6 p.m.
• Games at Sancet Stadium, 1290 AM