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Friday, June 6, 2014

Rangers take KU pitcher Benjamin in fifth round of MLB Draft

Kansas pitcher Wes Benjamin

Kansas pitcher Wes Benjamin

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With the 156th pick of the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, the Texas Rangers selected Kansas University baseball’s junior left-handed pitcher Wes Benjamin Friday afternoon.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Wes,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said. “It is a great compliment to Wes to be selected that high coming off Tommy John surgery. He is a great person, great athlete and a great student, and it is going to be fun to follow that young man’s career.”

Benjamin started his junior campaign with a perfect 4-0 record in seven starts, before a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament sidelined the hurler for the remainder of the season. However, with a strong resume over three years at KU, Benjamin’s status didn’t deter him from being picked up in the draft, in the fifth round.

“I am so blessed to be taken where I was,” Benjamin said. “It has been an emotional roller coaster leading up to this point and to hear your name called, it’s a relief. I wasn’t expecting to go that high and the (Texas) Rangers had a lot of faith in me. I am happy to be a part of the Ranger organization.”

Benjamin became the highest KU pick in the Price era since 2003. In 42 and two-thirds innings pitched this season, the lefty recorded 31 strikeouts, including a season-high eight against Houston Baptist (Feb. 28). Against perennial power Stanford (March 7), he allowed just four hits in seven innings, striking out five Cardinal in the process.

“It means a lot to be selected,” Benjamin said. “I haven’t really looked at prior history and I wasn’t trying to make a huge deal out of it. At the end of the day, it could have been very disappointing. To be selected says a lot about the faith the Rangers’ organization has in me. If it wasn’t for the coaches, players and everyone involved with the program at KU, this would not have been possible.”

Benjamin is one of five draftees selected in the top-10 rounds in Price’s tenure at Kansas (Tom Gorzelanny, second; Don Czyz, seventh; Sean Land, ninth; Tony Thompson, sixth; and Wes Benjamin; fifth). In addition, two of the last three left-handed pitchers selected in the top-15 rounds out of KU have went on to throw in the majors (Gorzelanny and Mike Zagurski).

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