Toronto Blue Jays draft Hawk Hurler

BY J.T. BUGOS | JUNE 11, 2009 7:26 AM

Steve Turnbull was navigating through Facebook and the MLB DraftTracker when he heard his name called Wednesday afternoon. The Hawkeye pitcher was selected in the 17th round by the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I was so excited; I had high hopes of getting drafted,” he said. “Quite frankly, I would have taken anything. If I was 50th-round last pick, I would have signed in a heartbeat because I’m just excited to be able to play professional baseball.”

Iowa head coach Jack Dahm was happy for his reliever and the opportunity presented to him.

“There’s excitement every time one of your players gets drafted and gets the opportunity to go out and play professional baseball,” he said. “I think Steve deserved the opportunity to go out there and continue his career in baseball.”

Going in, Turnbull’s expectations of being drafted were minimal. But that didn’t take away from the joy he felt upon being drafted.

“It’s always been my goal to play at the next level possible, so playing professional baseball is definitely my current goal,” he said.

Dahm believes he will be able to have a long career playing baseball at the highest level.

“I think he’s got so much more ability in him, and he just kept getting better and better for us,” Dahm said. “He’s got a good enough arm that he could play this game for a while. The exciting thing about Steve is his best days are ahead of him.”

Turnbull spent the past year-and-a-half coming out of the Iowa bullpen. Last season, he rang up 39 strikeouts in 19 relief appearances and had a 5.34 ERA. Although he enjoyed his role with the Hawkeyes, the 6-3 right-hander didn’t rule out the possibility of being a starting pitcher.

“I guess I would enjoy returning to starting,” Turnbull said. “But I really like relieving. You can get called at any time, and you just show up, throw your innings, throw as hard as you can, and empty the tank.”

Dahm also wouldn’t rule out a return to the starter’s role for Turnbull but said the bullpen would be the role best suited for a power pitcher of Turnbull’s skill. Throughout the 2009 season, Dahm saw his former pitcher at his best coming in relief, with the bullpen also illustrating Turnbull’s attitude.

“He was very unselfish, and he realized what we were asking him to do out of the bullpen,” Dahm said. “From that standpoint, he was very valuable.”

The head coach sees a very gifted and explosive athlete in Turnbull, who started to learn how to use his athleticism on the field. Dahm said the bulk of Turnbull’s success came from improved focus and work ethic, which led to an increase in confidence.

That newfound confidence would then lead to an efficient reliever.

“I think we only lost one game in which we led in the sixth inning because of the job Steve did,” Dahm said.

Turnbull was able to briefly talk to some of the brass in Toronto, and will head north of the border soon to meet with the Blue Jays. Afterwards, he will likely join Toronto’s rookie-league affiliate.
Also drafted Wednesday was incoming Iowa recruits Matthew Dermody and Dan Sheppard.

Dermody was drafted in the 26th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The southpaw pitcher posted a 7-3 record with a 0.78 ERA and 135 strikeouts this past season at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Iowa. Sheppard, a catcher from Downers Grove, Ill., was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round.

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