Johnny DuRocher has completed an improbable, seven-month journey from brain surgery patient to newest member of the Seattle Mariners' organization.
The Mariners selected the former Washington quarterback in the 34th round of the major league draft on Friday, even though the 6-foot-4, 215-pound DuRocher appeared in just four games and threw only six innings this season for the Huskies. That was the right-hander's first baseball action since 2001 when he was a sophomore catcher at Bethel High School in Graham.
DuRocher had a plate and screws placed in his head on Nov. 30, after doctors removed a non-cancerous brain tumor. His mother reported that within hours of the surgery, DuRocher made pitching motions with his right wrist.
"Anybody who can survive brain surgery and come through that gets another notch in my book," said Jim Fitzgerald, the Mariners' Northwest area scout.
Fitzgerald, who has been with the Mariners for 12 years and was the team's assistant vice president of scouting until last year, said he "went to bat" for DuRocher in Seattle's draft room Friday.
"You're projecting on this guy," Fitzgerald said. "He has some arm strength, but it's very raw. But anyone who can play quarterback in the Pac-10 is a good athlete."
Earlier Friday, the Mariners selected another Husky right-hander, Brandon McKerney from Edmonds, in the 14th round. McKerney was the setup reliever for star closer Nick Hagadone, whom Boston drafted at 55th overall on Thursday.
Seattle's other second-day draftee of note was Rod Scurry from the University of Nevada, son of former Pirates, Yankees and Mariners reliever Rod Scurry. The younger Scurry is 6-7 and, yes, another right-hander.
"We stockpiled a lot of pitching today," said Bob Fontaine, the Mariners vice president for scouting.
Major league teams drafted four other UW players. Third baseman Matt Hague went to Cleveland in the 11th round. Right-hander Harrison Bishop from Kirkland went in the 17th round to Pittsburgh. Milwaukee selected first baseman Curt Rindal, a senior from Mount Vernon, in the 35th round. In the 36th round, the New York Yankees drafted shortstop Danny Cox, a sophomore from Chehalis.
In April, Huskies football coach Tyrone Willingham had essentially ruled out DuRocher from returning to play quarterback this fall as a senior because of the nature of his surgery.
DuRocher found out he had the tumor after he suffered a concussion in Washington's 20-3 loss to Stanford on Nov. 11. He was taken to the UW Medical Center for a CAT scan and doctors noticed an abnormality. A series of MRIs confirmed the tumor.
DuRocher quarterbacked in two games for the Huskies last season, completing five of 17 passes for one touchdown and 44 yards, with two interceptions. He transferred to Washington after redshirting as a freshman at Oregon in 2003.
The Mariners were impressed with DuRocher's athleticism and his eagerness to be on a baseball field this spring.
"We just wanted to take a flyer. He played quarterback all those years, so he has the arm strength," Fitzgerald said, adding DuRocher threw from 88-90 miles per hour the few times he saw him pitch.
"He lacks secondary stuff, but we'll teach him that."
Pending a contract agreement, DuRocher may attend a minicamp in Everett next week before the Mariners decide where he will begin his professional career.
Mariners draft former Washington quarterback DuRocher