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A great start for future M’s centerpiece

It’s difficult to imagine getting off to a better start than Everett outfielder Dennis Raben.

The Seattle Mariners’ second-round draft selection out of the University of Miami last month began his pro career on July 4 during the AquaSox's five-game series in Everett.

Raben went 3-for-4 and scored three runs in his first pro game. If that wasn’t enough, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound lefty homered to right center in his first at bat off Yakima starter Ian Harrington.

But Raben didn’t stop there.

During the next three games, Raben went 7-for-8 with four RBIs and five runs scored to raise his average to .833.

Not bad for a rookie.

“It’s hard to explain,” Raben smiled. “To expect that the whole season would be unrealistic.”

It’s not unusual for players coming out of college to hit a bit of a lull on offense while they learn to hit with wood bats on a daily basis. Players with high averages coming out of college can count on a significant drop that could be anywhere from 50- to 100 points. Sometimes even more.

But Raben has had success swinging wood bats before with his experience in the Cape Cod League in 2007. Before leading Miami to the College World Series in 2008, he led the Orleans Cardinals with a .298 average, 28 runs scored, 45 hits and 77 total bases.

The 20-year-old Florida native, who turns 21 on July 31, did come back down to earth a bit during a five-game series against the Dust Devils, going 4-for-15 through the first four games to drop his average to a measly .519.

“We’ve got 13 of our next 16 games on the road,” he said. “We have so many games in front of us.”

But area fans, many of whom are loyal Mariners fans, may be getting a good look at a future M’s centerpiece. And if he goes by his own timetable, that time could come much sooner than later.

“As soon as possible,” he said. “It’s every player’s dream to play in the major leagues. But it probably will take at least a couple years.”

The Mariners have been after the top prospect for years, drafting him in the 49th round of the 2005 draft out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I was very happy to be drafted by them the first time,” he said. “But I made the decision to go to college.”

Taking advantage of a second chance with Seattle, Raben couldn’t have picked a better time to be a young, talented player in the Mariners’ system, especially with the chance of major turnover at the big-league level in the near future.

“I don’t really think about that,” he said. “But it will open up a lot of opportunities for guys at the lower levels.”

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