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08/16/08 1:27 AM ET
Rangers ink top two Draft picks
Smoak gets $3.5 million signing bonus, $1,575,000 for Ross
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers lost on the field Friday but swept a doubleheader at the negotiating table when they were able to reach an agreement with both first baseman Justin Smoak and pitcher Robbie Ross, their top two picks in the First-Year Player Draft. Ross was pretty much done earlier this week and only formally announced on Friday. Smoak's deal was done only in the final minutes leading up to an 11 p.m. CDT deadline after club officials seemed pessimistic for much of the evening. But Smoak and his representative, Dustin Bledsoe, agreed to a deal just 15 minutes before the deadline for a signing bonus of $3.5 million. "Before game time, I didn't feel good about it," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "But that's part of the process; everybody waits to squeeze one more drop out of the stone. For the most part, you're not going to get a deal done five hours before a deadline if you didn't get one five weeks before the deadline. You get it done in the last five minutes." Smoak, 21, a switch-hitter, was the 11th overall pick in the Draft after batting .333 in 739 at-bats with 62 home runs, 53 doubles, 207 RBIs and 88 runs scored in his three-year career at the University of South Carolina. He is the all-time leader at South Carolina in home runs and RBIs. "I'm very excited, very excited right now," Smoak said from his home in South Carolina. "I'm going 100 miles per hour." Smoak was in Dallas on Thursday to have his physical -- a hurdle his agent wanted out of the way in case a deal was struck. Smoak will be introduced at a press conference on Saturday in Arlington, then report to either Class A Spokane or Clinton to begin playing almost right away. "We want him to get as many at-bats as possible and then send him to instructional league," Daniels said. Ross, a left-hander pitcher from Lexington Christian Academy, agreed to a signing bonus of $1,575,000. He was 5-2 with a 1.51 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched this year, and had committed to the University of Kentucky. Daniels credited scouting director Ron Hopkins and his department for getting the deals done. "You can draft all the great players you want but it does you no good if you don't sign them," Daniels said. "Ownership really stepped up and allowed us to sign two very talented players to go with some guys who already signed and are performing in our system." Ross underwent his physical earlier in the week and will report to the Rangers' training facility in Surprise, Ariz. Unlike Smoak, he will not play in the Minor Leagues this season. He will report to instructional league. "I'm very excited," Ross said. "It was a long wait, seems like it has been forever. It's exciting to get an opportunity to play for the Rangers. It's unbelievable to me. "I'm just excited to get the opportunity to go and play baseball again. It will be great to get out there and play ball. I really want to get up here and play in Arlington. That would be amazing. This is a great ballpark." The Rangers also signed Ben Petralli, their 33rd-round pick out of Oral Roberts University. He is the son of former Rangers catcher Geno Petralli.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.