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Rutgers' Brownlie handling life in spotlight

Pitcher is a top draft prospect

By Dennis Waszak Jr

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- When Bobby Brownlie takes the mound for Rutgers, it's easy to tell how special a player he is. Just look behind the chain-link backstop before each pitch.

An army of scouts raise their radar guns and point them at the stocky right-hander in unison as they await his next fastball. The ball leaves Brownlie's hand, smacks the catcher's mitt for a strike and the batter remains frozen in his stance.

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The scouts, meanwhile, check the readings on their radar guns -- 94 mph -- whisper to each other, and jot in their notepads. Brownlie gets the ball back from his catcher, and it starts over again.

Such is the life of a top major league draft prospect -- and one from the Northeast, at that.

"I don't notice the scouts at all anymore," said Brownlie, a junior from Edison, N.J. "All the scouts know I have a fastball. I throw my fastball in the low- to mid-90s, and they know I have that."

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Brownlie, one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes award given to the country's best amateur baseball player, carries himself with a sense of confidence that's been evident even during recent tough outings.

Brownlie struggled in his last three appearances, including allowing six earned runs in an 8-3 loss to Notre Dame in the Big East tournament Thursday. He was 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings, hardly eye-popping statistics for a player hailed as college baseball's top pitching prospect before the season.

"There's always pressure," Brownlie admitted. "I'm regarded as one of the best pitchers in the country, so I have to go out there and perform. When you're expected to go out there and be the best, it's kind of tough every once in a while because God knows you're going to have a bad outing. And I'm just trying to keep those at a minimum."

The subpar season can be partly attributed to a case of elbow tendinitis that he developed while pitching on a cold afternoon at Boston College on March 24 and sapped some of his velocity. He's also had to make adjustments to his pitching mechanics.

"I haven't been back to 100 percent since that happened," Brownlie said. "And actually right now, I'm at the point where my arm really feels good."

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He's allowed 17 earned runs in his last 16 2/3 innings over his last three starts -- all losses. And the late-season struggles have some scouts wondering if Brownlie is still the real deal.

"I hear people saying that, but also in my corner is that I haven't had my A-plus game and I still was able to win games," Brownlie said.

Along with his fastball, he's got a knee-buckling curve and a solid changeup. His competitive demeanor and finely muscled lower body also have scouts impressed. The whole package could make him a top-10 draft pick June 4, a rarity among college pitchers based in the Northeast.

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