51s’ Everts not giving up on chance at majors

As the fifth overall pick of the 2002 draft, 51s relief pitcher Clint Everts was chosen over an array of future All-Stars in the first round, including pitchers Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and Scott Kazmir, and sluggers Prince Fielder and Nick Swisher.

But while each of those players long ago made his mark in the majors, Everts has yet to make it there.

“It turned out to be a pretty good draft. Obviously I’d like to be in their position, but it didn’t work out that way,” Everts said Monday prior to the 51s’ 9-6 win over Fresno at Cashman Field. “I was expecting to do well, but this game’s pretty humbling. Talent can only take you so far.

“I was pretty young and I didn’t really work as hard as I should have.”

Everts’ work ethic has changed for the better, but one thing that hasn’t changed for the 27-year-old – in his 10th season in the minors – is his passion for the sport.

“I still love the game and I really feel like I can pitch at the major league level,” he said. “I think I have the stuff, it’s just a matter of being consistent every day.”

Everts has emerged as one of Las Vegas’ most reliable pitchers, compiling a 2.92 ERA and two saves in 37 innings over 18 games, with 29 strikeouts and 14 walks.

“He’s been lights-out,” pitching coach Bob Stanley said.

With a rash of injuries decimating parent Toronto’s pitching staff, this might be the year Everts finally reaches the big leagues.

“He’s throwing the ball really well for us. You never know,” Stanley said. “He’s got a real good attitude.”

Besides his success this year, Everts was given another reason to rejoice July 10, when his wife Danielle gave birth to the couple’s first child, Elle Olivia Everts.

“It was beautiful,” Everts said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”

Two years after being drafted by the Montreal Expos out of high school in his native Houston – where Kazmir was his teammate – Everts underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery after the 2004 season and said it took him five years to regain his form.

“I didn’t come back as strong as I should’ve. I could’ve done a couple things different,” he said. “I fell into a lot of bad habits as far as my mechanics. It really wasn’t until 2009 where my velocity and all that stuff came back.”

Everts, who was converted to a reliever in 2007, went a combined 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 2009 for Washington’s Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. But he wasn’t called up by the Nationals and wasn’t re-signed after the season, either.

He opened 2010 in the Mets organization before being traded to the Blue Jays, for whom he continues to grind away in the hopes of eventually joining the more accomplished members of his draft class in the majors.

“I’m still only 27,” he said. “I’ve still got a few years left.”

■ NOTES – The Blue Jays signed 34-year-old left-hander Nate Robertson and assigned him to the 51s (53-42). He started Monday, allowing four runs on six hits in two innings to Fresno (51-43). … Toronto also sent right-hander Jesse Chavez to Las Vegas. … First baseman Aubrey Huff joined Fresno on a rehabilitation assignment (right knee) for the San Francisco Giants. Huff hit .250 with a homer in five games for Single-A San Jose before going 1-for-4 on Monday.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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