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Mets take chance on oft-injured ENMU lefty

Left-hander Ian Thurman-Kelly battled injuries at ENMU. Freedom Newspapers file photo.

In three seasons at Eastern New Mexico University, Ian Thurman-Kelly had modest numbers — a 7-14 record with a 6.33 earned run average.

Still, the New York Mets saw enough in the senior left-hander from Thornton, Colo., to select him in the 43rd round of this week’s first-year player draft.

Injuries plagued Thurman-Kelly at ENMU. As a sophomore, he developed an elbow problem which forced him to stop throwing his curveball; this year, he was hampered by a bad shoulder.

He pitched well as a starter in his junior season, but had only a 1-7 record to show for it, losing a number of low-scoring decisions.

“Had he gotten in all his starts (this year), I think he’d have gone higher,” ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh said.

Thurman-Kelly was 4-3 with a 5.83 in 10 starts in 2004.

“I think the fact he developed a quality changeup while he was here really helped him. They’ll (Mets) figure out what he’s got to be able to do to throw a curveball without pain.”

The Mets had planned to send Thurman-Kelly to a short-season rookie league in Florida, but he hasn’t signed yet because of his shoulder. He planned to see a specialist in the Denver area today, and said he may have an MRI done on it.

Big league teams are always looking for pitching — especially the left-handed variety — and Thurman-Kelly said the Mets are willing to wait on him.

“They just told me whenever I got healthy to give them a call,” he said. “They said if I get healthy I could get maybe 20 innings in this summer (in Florida).”

The Mets and Kansas City Royals were the teams which had expressed the most interest in Thurman-Kelly, Clabaugh said.

“After the season ended, I didn’t hear from anyone,” Thurman-Kelly said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but the Mets called me the week before the draft and told me they might be drafting me.”

Thurman-Kelly, who spent one year at Lamar (Colo.) Community College before transferring to ENMU, was primarily a reliever his first year with the Greyhounds before moving into the starting rotation. In 23 career starts at Eastern, he had four complete games.

“I’d love to be a starter; if I had my choice, that’s what I’d want,” he said. “I think I grew up a little bit in my three years (at Eastern). I think I learned a lot about baseball, and I progressed every year.”

Clabaugh believes Thurman-Kelly could have been one of the Lone Star Conference South Division’s top pitchers.

“I’m tickled to death for him,” Clabaugh said. “Ian was able to spot his fastball in and out and throw his changeup for strikes. That’s the reason most of his games were low-scoring.”