A day after the parent Padres paid host to a pair of incidents considerably weirder than a luxury box denizen throwing money onto the field (ie. Alberto Castillo hitting a home run and the Orioles winning a series), their no. 1 overall pick from 2004, Matt Bush (above, right) — selected ahead of Stephen Drew and Wevie Stonder II — is profiled by the New York Times’ Lee Jenkins.
Peoria is the spring home of the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners ” a place to be in March, not June. Most players here now are right out of high school or out of Latin America, staying at the La Quinta Inn and preparing for the rookie league season.
Matt Bush was here at this time three years ago, after the Padres drafted him with the first overall pick and pegged him as their shortstop of the future.
The future arrived Wednesday morning, but not exactly the way it was envisioned. Bush climbed atop a pitcher™s mound, rubbed up a baseball and kicked at the rubber. Six coaches studied him. One-hundred-and-three degrees beat down on him.
In the history of baseball™s amateur draft, only two players taken with the No. 1 pick have failed to make the major leagues ” Brien Taylor, chosen by the Yankees in 1991; and Steve Chilcott, chosen by the Mets in 1966.
Bush will do anything to keep from joining that list. Right now, for example, he is learning how to pitch.
œThis feels like a new life for me, Bush said. œIt feels like I™m finally about to have some success.
Appropriately enough, Bush was assigned Wednesday to Field 1, in a complex that houses 16 fields. Here, the Padres are trying to salvage a No. 1 pick, the No. 1 pick is trying to salvage his career, and both are trying to save some face.
Bush does not look like a pitcher. He is 5 feet 10 inches and 189 pounds, with the build of a middle infielder. But his delivery is simple and smooth. His fastball travels about 95 miles an hour. In a batting-practice session Wednesday, no one could touch him.
Players whistled. Coaches grinned. Jim Lefebvre, a former major league manager and a consultant for the Padres, turned to the aluminum bleachers with his mouth open. œThat is legit, Lefebvre said. There was one fan sitting in the bleachers.
The last time Bush threw a pitch in a baseball game, he was at Mission Bay High School in San Diego. For the past three seasons, he played shortstop in the minor leagues, and he did not play it particularly well, batting .218 with 136 strikeouts and 75 errors.
Bush has never advanced beyond Class A. He has struggled in every facet of the game, except one. He can throw hard enough to rip the mitt off a first baseman™s hand.
If any organization truly believes that a shortstop can be converted into a superstar pitcher, it is the Padres. Seventeen years ago, Trevor Hoffman batted .212 as a shortstop at Class A Charleston, a minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
œYou don™t want to compare a guy to Hoffman, but Matt Bush has big-league stuff right now, Mike Couchee, the Padres™ minor league pitching coordinator, said. œI believe this is what he™s meant to do. This is his calling.