By David Willis
---- — LOWELL — Just one year ago, Teddy Stankiewicz seemed destined for life in the Big Apple.
A second-round pick of the pitching-starved New York Mets, Stankiewicz endured a summer of fruitless negotiations. He decided to gamble on himself and walk away from the organization in favor of a year of college and another shot at the draft.
A year later, Stankiewicz’s gamble has paid off. He’s beginning his professional career with the Lowell Spinners after being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the second round of the 2013 draft.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” said Stankiewicz. “It’s a real relief to have this worked out and finally be a member of a team. The Red Sox have been great so far. Fenway is awesome and Lowell has been great.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound righty emerged as an elite prospect during his senior season at Fort Worth (Texas) Christian, going 12-2 with a 1.35 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings pitched, all school records.
That success, combined with his fastball that reached the mid 90s and a nasty slider, made him an appealing prospect in the 2012 draft despite that he had committed to play at the University of Arkansas.
The Mets ended up selecting Stankiewicz in the second round, with the 75th pick overall. But negotiations quickly hit a snag as the Mets offered him just $612,360, according to Baseball America, well under the $860,000 that he was slotted to make at the spot he was drafted.
“I considered signing, but the Mets didn’t meet my expectations,” said Stankiewicz, who was the second highest pick not to sign. “It was tough. Most people expected me to sign, because the second round is very good. They were worried when they heard I didn’t. But most understood when I told them why I decided not to.”
After turning down the Mets, Stankiewicz also elected not to attend Arkansas. He instead chose to go to Seminole State Junior College in Oklahoma so he could then enter the 2013 Draft. Players who attend four-year colleges can only be drafted after three years.
“Seminole State was great to me,” he said. “I felt like I could get better in one year there than spending three years at Arkansas. It was great. We did a lot of running — lot LOT — so it got me in great shape and the coaches helped me a lot.”
Stankiewicz finished the season 4-5, but with a 2.52 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. He was projected to go as high as No. 26 overall to the New York Yankees.
For the second straight season, Stankiewicz ended up hearing his name called in the second round, this time by the Red Sox with pick No. 45 overall.
“I was thinking first or second round,” he said. “But it can be so unpredictable. No. 45 was great. Everyone in my house was screaming and shouting and crying. It was a great feeling to be drafted again, and by the Red Sox this time.”
Negotiations were much smoother this time around for Stankiewicz. Just days after, he and the Sox agreed on a deal that included a $1.1 million signing bonus. The deal became official late last week, and he was assigned to Lowell. He is expected to make his first start in two weeks.
But not before he had the opportunity to tour the ballpark he hopes to one day call his home.
“The negotiations went great,” he said. “They knew what I was asking for and that’s really all I can ask of the team. The Red Sox are one of the iconic organizations, and they were great to me. I took a chance, and now here I am.
“The organization brought me to Fenway and it was awesome. I had never been to Boston before. I got to tour the clubhouse and see all the big leaguers’ lockers. I met a lot of guys. Not many have that chance. The Bruins were playing too, so I got to see all that excitement.”
Baseball America noted that Stankiewicz is polished for a 19-year-old pitcher, with the ability to throw four pitches with authority.
“My key is fastball location,” he said. “I can put the ball anywhere I want, and I am low 90s, sometimes as high as 94. My next best pitch is my changeup around 80, then my slider about 83. I am developing my curveball as well.
“My mechanics are similar to (2011 American League MVP) Justin Verlander, but he is a real star. I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, but I am going to.”
He is also thrilled to pitch in front of a crowd.
“When I was at Seminole State I was pitching in front of about 50 people a game,” he said. “Here (in Lowell) there are some huge crowds. I am a better pitcher when people are watching me. The more adrenalin, the better.”