Offer from Oakland not enough to make Southridge star jump

CORVALLIS - No telling yet if Jace Fry is the kind of pitcher who can lead Oregon State to another College World Series appearance.

But the kid from Southridge High has a chance.

Coach Pat Casey knows he has a gem along the lines of a Dallas Buck, Jonah Nickerson or Sam Gaviglio in the 6-2, 195-pound freshman left-hander, who spurned a $300,000 bonus offer from the Oakland A's to come to Oregon State.

'Jace is a guy who will pitch for us on the weekends,' Casey says. 'He has the potential to be a Friday night guy for us.'

Casey doesn't toss around such compliments loosely, but Fry is the kind of prospect who comes along only every so often.

As a senior at Southridge, Fry was the Oregon's Class 6A pitcher of the year, going 10-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Rated the state's top prospect by Baseball Northwest, he allowed 30 hits with 92 strikeouts and 18 walks in 59 innings. As an outfielder and designated hitter, Fry hit .488 with four homers and 38 RBIs.

In nine games with the Corvallis Knights of the West Coast League this summer, Fry was 2-1 with a 1.41 ERA, striking out 33 in 38 1/3 innings. He was selected as the WCL's top prospect and the top incoming freshman from all 21 summer leagues throughout the nation.

When the A's chose Fry in the ninth round of the June major league draft, the feeling was he would likely sign.

'If the money is there, I'm willing to sign,' Fry said then.

Fry spent the summer in Corvallis, gaining valuable experience in the college-dominated WCL and waiting for Oakland to tender an offer in his price range - about $500,000.

The Aug. 15 signing date came, and the A's were willing to give only a $300,000 signing bonus. Hello, Oregon State.

'The money wasn't right,' Fry says. 'The offer wasn't high enough to get me out of coming to a school like this.'

Fry was surprised that the A's didn't meet his asking price. So was his father, Steve, foreman of a construction company in Portland.

'I figured they come up to $500,000,' the elder Fry says. 'Jace topped out at 96 (mph) this summer. I was keeping pretty good tabs on how much money (the A's) were spending. I was shocked, really. But I was proud of Jace for not budging.'

Jace was aware the A's were doing what is called a 'draft-and-follow' with him this summer.

'That helped me bring myself up to level of competition (in the WCL), because I was trying to perform for them as well as the Knights,' he says. 'Going into the summer, I had an idea I was going to sign. (Before the draft), I had been talking with some teams. They threw out numbers and it sounded right.

'And I knew I was going to improve a lot. I've always been a guy who bumped up the velocity in the summer. Once it did, it was like, it should work out. But then it didn't.'

At first, Fry concedes, he was disappointed.

'But I saw a lot of kids who throw like I do who didn't sign,' he says. 'Now I'm not disappointed with what happened. I'm excited to see what happens here.'

So is Fry's father, who has crunched the numbers and figures if things go as planned, Jace will be in line for a bigger signing bonus after his junior season.

'We had our number set,' the senior Fry says. 'If the A's didn't want to pay it, I was completely satisfied with Jace going to Oregon State. When he comes out of there, his projectability will be higher.'

That's a long way down the road, of course.

But after a week and a half of fall ball working with OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie, Fry seems off to a good start.

'So far, it's been good,' he says. 'I've learned a lot already. I've had a lot of time on the field with Coach Yeskie, who is kind of getting me up to par with the other kids, who are older.

'We're doing a lot more mechanical things off the mound. The biggest change is we have way more signs at this level.'

Fry will get an opportunity to win a spot in the Pac-12 rotation that is likely to include sophomores Adam Duke and Ben Wetzler.

'Jace can come in and pitch right away,' Casey says. 'He is mature as a pitcher. That's important. He showed he was ready with his performance this summer.

'He has upside velocity. He can go up and reach the mid-90s. He can throw a breaking ball for strikes. He throws with command and presence. He is very advanced for a guy his age.'

Fry wants to be Oregon State's Friday night pitcher.

'Everyone's goal is to be the No. 1 starter,' he says. 'That's what I'm shooting for.'

'He will thrive on that opportunity,' Casey says. 'Pressure isn't something in his vocabulary. He would like to pitch in every big game we can put him in. He has a lot of self-confidence.'

Fry figures he is better-equipped for the challenge after his time with the Knights.

'This summer helped a lot,' he says. 'I learned which pitches to throw - where in the at-bat, when to throw them, what location, the timing. Instead of just pitching the way I wanted to, I had to pitch according to the hitter, because everyone is better at that level.'

Fry will not attempt to be a position player when he is not pitching. Will he miss batting?

'I already do,' he says with a smile. 'I got used to it (pitching with the Knights) this summer, though.'

Collegiate Baseball ranks Oregon State's incoming class as the ninth-best in the country. Two of the freshmen, Dylan Davis and Michael Conforto from Redmond, Wash., could wind up as the Beavers' starting corner outfielders. That's along with a strong nucleus returning from the 2010 team that reached the NCAA super regionals.

'We have a really good shot' at the College World Series, Fry says. 'We know everyone else is out to get us, but we have great competition within ourselves, and we have the talent for it.'

It's a long way to Omaha. A prize freshman such as Fry, though, gives the Beavers a better chance to get there.

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