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Yanks sign Bleich, but not top pick Cole

Yanks sign Bleich, but not Cole

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were unable to come to terms with first-round selection Gerrit Cole before the clock struck midnight ET on Friday, but New York did secure its second pick in June's First-Year Player Draft, agreeing to terms with left-hander Jeremy Bleich.

Bleich was the only supplemental-round pick remaining unsigned before the Yankees inked the Stanford hurler to a reported $700,000 deal. New York also inked 27th-round shortstop Garrison Lassiter on Friday, giving the Yanks 33 of their selections from the First-Year Player Draft and eight of their top 10.

Going unsigned out of the top 10 were Cole, who will accept a scholarship to UCLA instead of beginning his professional career, and second-round pick Scott Bittle, a right-hander who will return to the University of Mississippi.

Regarding Cole, who turns 18 next month, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that it had become apparent that the organization would be unable to sign him. Cashman said on Friday that Cole's stance had changed since he was taken with the 28th overall selection from Orange Lutheran High School in California.

"Gerrit Cole is not going to sign with us, it's as simple as that," Cashman said. "Unfortunately, he wants to pursue college, and he does not have an interest in pursuing professional baseball. It's not a money-negotiating issue as much as a life choice at this moment in time."

Cole is represented by the Scott Boras agency, but Cashman noted that the non-signing was not a direct result of the agent, who is known for sometimes-contentious negotiating sessions with clubs.

Instead, Cashman believes that Cole -- a lifelong Yankees fan who was photographed at the 2001 World Series and sought autographs from players like Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams in the lobby of the club's hotel -- simply had a change of heart. The Yankees will instead receive a compensatory selection in next year's Draft.

"We knew when we selected Gerrit Cole that there was a signability issue," Cashman said. "To be truthful, that signability issue spoke more to the difficulty in negotiation, not his interest level being college versus pro. At the time that we selected him, his interest was to play professionally, although he had a choice to go to college.

"Obviously, between drafting him and Aug. 15, after a lot of thought, the family and the player made a life choice that they want to forgo professional baseball for now."

Cole is regarded as one of the country's top young arms, having been clocked in the high-90s already. Listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Cole went 8-2 with a 0.47 ERA at Orange Lutheran this year, striking out 121 batters in 75 innings. As Cashman said, the Yankees' loss will be UCLA's gain.

"We wished we could have signed him. We wished we could have negotiated with him," Cashman said. "It just wasn't to be."

The Yankees declined to sign Bittle, taken at No. 75, after a physical by Yankees doctors reportedly showed areas of concern in the hurler's pitching shoulder. Bittle countered with documentation from other physicians, including Dr. James Andrews, that said his shoulder should not have been a major concern. In an e-mail sent to MLB.com this week, Bittle acknowledged that he could return to Ole Miss in the fall, but said that he would have preferred to begin his professional career.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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