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Illini closer Gerber selected by Mariners in eighth round of MLB Draft

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Illini closer Gerber selected by Mariners in eighth round of MLB Draft

By Gavin Good, Staff writer

Make that two Illini players selected in the MLB Draft on Tuesday.

Reliable closer Joey Gerber joined teammate Bren Spillane in the professional ranks when he was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the eighth round of the draft (pick No. 238).

Gerber tied the program’s record for single saves in a season this year, with 14 (No. 6 overall pick Tyler Jay did the same in 2015). He never failed to come up with a save and had an ERA of 3.14 while only allowing opposing batters to average .182 against him.

He slipped further in the draft than most experts expected him to, falling to the eighth round after being pegged to go somewhere around the fifth. At No. 238, the pick had a $167,400 value.

The Maple Grove, Minnesota, native was a bit anxious as the draft unfolded but felt a sense of relief wash over him when his name flashed across the TV screen.

“You wait for four hours for it to finally come,” Gerber said. “I was just excited the Mariners took a chance on me and I’ve got to make the most.”

With 22 career saves, Gerber comes in at No. 3 all-time in the program, just behind Tyler Jay, who had 24 saves from 2013-2015 and Jeff Richards, who had 23 saves from 1987-1990. In 28.2 innings in 2018, Gerber struck out 45 batters. He never started in his collegiate career, providing some relief at times and closing out games at others.

Regularly hitting 93-96 miles per hour with his fastball and with a solid slider, Gerber has the tools to fight for a spot in the Mariners organization, though he will likely have to start in single-A or on one of the club’s rookie league affiliates.

However, he’s confident he can do what he needs to in order to find success at the professional level.

“If I can command the zone well, I think I’ll be just fine,” Gerber said. “It comes down to that.”

Like Spillane, Gerber said leaving Illinois for the next level after three years is bittersweet, but he’s looking optimistically toward the years ahead.

“It was just an overall great experience,” Gerber said. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity I had there to get a chance to play college baseball and I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold. I’m just excited to be a part of the Mariners organization, really.”

After a longer-than-expected wait, Gerber will now see what Seattle has in mind for him as he transitions to the professional game.

Now that he knows his fate, it will be time for Gerber to prepare to make his move to whichever affiliate club the Mariners send him to and get to work. Finally realizing his dream of playing pro ball and after sweating it out a little bit during the draft, he’s ready to get after it.

“I was told there would be a chance (Seattle) picked me up (in the eighth round), but you never really know,” Gerber said. “I had been contacted by other teams before then and that didn’t work, obviously. So as it was coming, I was like, ‘Well maybe they’ll take me’. And then they actually took me, so that was pretty exciting.”

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