Marlins prospect, former Beav Wetzler reflects on journey

By Jon Fuccillo / For the Corvallis Gazette-Times

Published Jul 1, 2014 at 12:01AM

Ben Wetzler, the All-America Oregon State pitcher who became famous for his filthy cap and hard-nosed competitiveness, can finally call himself a Major League Baseball player after being drafted for the third time since his senior year at Clackamas High.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left-hander waited patiently near his MacBook to hear his name called a few weeks back.

Then, finally, in the ninth round, with the 257th overall pick at about 2:45 p.m., the Miami Marlins selected the two-time first-team all-Pac-12 pitcher.

“It’s going to be a good opportunity,” Wetzler said recently of joining the Marlins organization, which has produced two World Series championships — in 1997 and 2003.

All he did last season was finish with video-game numbers, including a 12-1 record to go along with a nation-best 0.78 ERA. Opposing batters managed just a .143 average against Wetzler, which also led the country.

In his final two seasons in Corvallis, Wetzler went 22-2 and finished his career as the Beavers’ all-time leader in wins (36) and innings pitched (369 1⁄3). And his 291 strikeouts were nine shy of breaking Jonah Nickerson’s 299 (2004-06) for the school record.

Wetzler’s thoughts on breaking the all-time wins mark?

“I knew coming into the year I had a chance,” he said. “It was really, really special. I’m just thankful I’ve been healthy for four years and started a lot of games.”

He quickly added that Oregon State rising junior Andrew Moore “will be on my tail shortly (for career wins), especially if he stays all four years” like Wetzler opted to do.

Although Wetzler was drafted somewhat later than expected, he remained poised and humble as ever.

“Look at my college stats,” he said. “I let my body of work speak for itself. I pride myself, along with (outfielder Michael) Conforto, as being one of the most competitive guys on campus.”

Wetzler was suspended twice during the 2014 season, first for violating a rule against using a sports agent during financial negotiations after he had been drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies — the NCAA suspended him for the first 11 games of the season. In May, he was arrested after allegedly breaking a window of a house he was trying to enter while intoxicated, believing the house was his residence. For that, Oregon State coach Pat Casey suspended Wetzler for five games.

During the suspensions, Wetzler put things in perspective and said being on the mound was his “escape.”

“It’s a comfort thing,” he said. “(Pitching) is my sanctuary to get out on the mound and do what I love and get after it. … That was some true adversity. … I’m just happy all of that’s all behind me.”

Considering the Phillies drafted the southpaw in the fifth round following his junior campaign (10-1, 2.25 ERA) and reportedly offered him about the $350,000 signing bonus range, the Marlins were lucky enough to get him as late as they did and gave him a signing bonus worth about $35,000.

Not a bad deal for the Marlins.

“I knew coming back as a senior that I might go lower,” Wetzler says. “But I wasn’t too concerned.”

After Wetzler’s senior season at Clackamas, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 15th round.

During that 2010 season, he was almost unhittable. He finished the year with a record of 12-0 to go with a 0.32 ERA. He had 164 strikeouts in only 86 2⁄3 innings as he led Clackamas to the Oregon state baseball title.

Though he might have lost out on a lot of money, Wetzler has no regrets and knew coming back for his senior year might hurt his draft stock.

“I just need a shot with a team to prove myself,” said Wetzler, who will be given that opportunity with the Marlins. The average age of their starting rotation is 27.

As far as his career at Oregon State, he said he will cherish the relationships and the “brotherhood” of his teammates and the opportunity to play at least once in the College World Series.

“It was the best four years of my life,” Wetzler said. “At the end of the day, I get to hang up my (Beavers) hat and look at everything and know we did a pretty good job.”