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Cubs likely taking pitcher with No. 2 pick, but maybe not

Oklahomstarter Jonathan Gray delivers pitch against Coastal Carolinan NCAA regional tournament college baseball game Friday May 31 2013 English Field

Oklahoma starter Jonathan Gray delivers a pitch against Coastal Carolina in an NCAA regional tournament college baseball game on Friday, May 31, 2013 at English Field in Blacksburg, Va. Grey pitched a complete game in their 7-3 win. (AP Photo/Michael Shroyer) ORG XMIT: VAMS102

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Wednesday: 6:05 p.m., CSN, 720-AM. Matt Garza (1-0, 3.38) vs. Jason Vargas (5-3, 3.34).

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Updated: June 4, 2013 11:30AM

Picking second in the Major League Baseball amateur draft should be golden for any team.

It was for the Detroit Tigers in 2004. That’s when they selected pitcher Justin Verlander from Old Dominion after the San Diego
Padres chose high school shortstop Matt Bush, who ended up in jail after multiple DUI arrests and never reached the majors.

It was — briefly — for the Cubs in 2001. That’s when they picked pitcher Mark Prior from USC after the Minnesota Twins selected catcher Joe Mauer, an in-state high school star from St. Paul.

In 2003, Prior and Kerry Wood were a formidable starting duo on a team that came within two innings of the National League pennant. But after going 18-6 that season, Prior won only 18 more games through three injury-plagued seasons.

Now the Cubs have the No. 2 selection — behind the Houston Astros — in the draft Thursday. Pitchers Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma and Mark Appel from Stanford are considered the favorites to be chosen with the first two picks. Gray, however, reportedly tested positive for Adderall.

The Cubs also have their eyes on third basemen Kris Bryant from San Diego and Colin Moran from North Carolina.

The choice will come down to the player with ‘‘the best chance to provide significant impact,’’ Cubs vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said.

‘‘We all know you need dominant starting pitching to hopefully get to where we want to be,’’ McLeod said. ‘‘At the same time, you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself based just on need. We need to take the guy who gives us the best chance to provide significant impact.’’

Since 1993, nine pitchers have been selected No. 2 overall. Verlander was by far the most successful.

The most recent No. 2 overall pick to reach the majors was Seattle Mariners infielder Dustin Ackley, who was chosen in 2009 and made his big-league debut in 2011. He was demoted to the minors last week.

Pedro Alvarez, a third baseman selected No. 2 overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, was called up in 2010 but is hitting only .199 this season. Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the No. 2 overall pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2007, was called up in 2011 but also is struggling this season, hitting .186.

McLeod said the Cubs’ brass hasn’t spent as much time lately discussing the No. 2 pick as they have the Nos. 41 and 75 picks the team also has. But manager Dale Sveum isn’t shy about expressing his preference for pitching.

‘‘Those are the kind of guys you need to hit when you’re drafting that high, and pitching is something you want to get into the organization,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘You pull for a lot of pitching no matter when it is. The bottom line is getting pitching in the organization.’’

McLeod said the mind-set is also about selecting a player who will have a long-term effect.

‘‘Whether you’re drafting No. 2 or No. 6, like last year, or picking late, like we did for years in Boston, that’s always the mind-set,’’ he said.

McLeod said a quick rise to the majors isn’t necessarily a priority.

‘‘In a perfect world it would happen, but last year we took [high school outfielder] Albert Almora. Any time you take a high school player, you understand it will take a little longer. We still think it was the right decision.

‘‘Looking at this year with the No. 2 pick, if it happens this guy stays healthy and gets [to the majors] in the next couple of years, great. If we’re talking four years from now and saying, ‘That was a great pick,’ that would be wonderful.’’

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