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Fifth-Round Pick Nieto Signs a Deal

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 11, 2008

MILWAUKEE, Aug. 10 -- When the Washington Nationals drafted high school catcher Adrian Nieto in the fifth round of the June draft, several members of the team's front office said they felt lucky to get such a player so late. But to actually secure Nieto's services, which the team did Sunday, signing Nieto to a deal that will have him playing in the minors by Tuesday, the team had to pay Nieto like somebody drafted several rounds earlier.

Nieto's professional contract includes a $376,000 signing bonus, according to a source. This year, no other fifth-round pick has received a bonus exceeding $225,000. The draftees before and after Nieto received bonuses of $180,000 and $185,000, respectively. The bonus paid to Nieto is commensurate with that normally given to a late third-round selection.

Said Nieto's adviser, Joshua Kusnick, "Adrian is really excited to get his career started."

A catcher from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., Nieto becomes just the second of Washington's top five selections to sign. The team has five more days to negotiate with the other draft picks, including first-round pick Aaron Crow.

Nieto will report to Washington's Gulf Coast League affiliate. The 18-year-old had fallen in the draft in large part because of an elbow injury that plagued his junior year. Still, Baseball America calls him the "best switch-hitting catching prospect in the country."

And Nieto said Sunday that his elbow is "100 percent ready to go." Had Nieto not signed with Washington, he would have played at Miami Dade College, he said.

"You know, there were some days when I thought [the agreement] wasn't going to come together," Nieto said, "but I knew that I always wanted to be a National and they wanted me to be a National. . . . The negotiations, at first they were a little hard, but they were fair to me."

Mock Set to Help Out

Prior to Monday, when he'll make a spot start to help the Nationals' rotation recover from Thursday's doubleheader, pitcher Garrett Mock hadn't started a game since July 21. Since then, he has pitched for the Nationals and with Class AAA Columbus as a reliever. Still, Manager Manny Acta said that Mock's shorter appearances won't hinder the right-hander's arm endurance. His pitch count will likely stand at 100.

Generally, Acta said, a pitcher loses a starter's endurance only after a month of not starting.

"If a guy has been in the 'pen way over a month, you know, then you have to take that into consideration," Acta said.

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