Braves sign top pick, hard-throwing Hursh headed to Rome

Two weeks after the Braves made him their top draft pick, hard-throwing Jason Hursh will head to Class-A Rome on Thursday to begin his professional career.

“They don’t waste any time,” said the right-hander from Oklahoma State, who signed Wednesday for a bonus of just over $1.7 million, and got a tour of Turner Field with his parents. “I’m ready to get started.”

The 31st overall pick of the draft, Hursh said the Braves made it an easy decision for him to sign rather than return to college. As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, he drew attention from scouts with a fastball clocked at 98-99 mph and two-seamer in the low-90s.

“He’s a clean, easy delivery,” said Braves scout Gerald Turner, who first saw Hursh pitch when he was in high school in Carrollton, Texas. “Easy 95 (mph). Can paint both sides of the plate. Doesn’t have a lot of innings on his arm. He’s going to move fast. Strike thrower, ground-ball pitcher, downhill (throwing plane), good body.”

Hursh’s heavy, late-moving fastball was called “one of the most devastating pitches in the draft” by Baseball America.

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The Braves signed him to the exact bonus-pool recommendation for the 31st pick — $1,704,200.

“It’s a relief,” Hursh said of getting negotiations out of the way and his contract signed. “Glad to be here, see the behind-the-scenes operation and meet some people. It’s been a good experience so far.”

Hursh missed the 2012 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, but showed no lingering effects during his redshirt sophomore season, going 6-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 16 starts. Braves scouts clocked his fastball at 99 mph at the Big 12 tournament after the regular season.

He was named second-team All-Big 12 after finishing tied for second in strikeouts (86) and third in innings (106 1/3).

Hursh said elbow surgery helped him become a better pitcher.

“I think I just grew up, really,” he said. “Having Tommy John surgery, I obviously sat out the 2012 season. I just really worked hard. I knew it was a second chance to come back and prove I could still pitch. It helped, sitting on the sideline. It made me develop my mental game more. Just came back and really have been better ever since. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise, I guess you would say.”

Hursh was drafted the Pirates in the sixth round in 2010, after his senior year in high school. He opted for college.

“To his credit, he wasn’t ready out of high school, mentally or physically,” Turner said. “He’s ready to roll now.”

— Staff writer Carroll Rogers contributed to this report

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