Ryan Buch attended special workouts for the Mets and Phillies and the former, he felt, seemed very interested in making him an employee.

Then came yesterday, and the eighth round of baseball's first-year player draft, and his assorted phones started going crazy.

"I was talking to the Reds," he said, "and had four other teams on hold. They were trying to feel me out, see what kind of money I'd like if they took me right about then. The Reds guy offered an exact amount and I told him, 'Yeah, I'd sign for that.' The Cubs, Orioles . . . those two, for sure, were among the ones on hold."

At the same time, he was listening to MLB.com.

"And pacing frantically," he said, laughing. "Anyway, when I was still talking to the Reds' guy, I heard them say my name. Pretty shocking."

Especially since the team that tabbed Buch, a 6-3, 195-pound junior righthander from Monmouth University by way of Conwell-Egan High, with the 253rd overall pick wasn't the Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Mets, Phillies or any team that had expressed special interest.

"But now, here I am, with the White Sox," Buch said.

He continued: "I know they came to my games, but I never had conversations with any of their scouts. You never know with the draft. It was a crazy day. I was hearing I could go in the third to fifth round, so I fell a little bit. But it all worked out."

In 2006, Buch was the starting rightfielder as C-E won the Catholic League championship. He had already signed with Monmouth by then, but Brian Herman was the Eagles' franchise pitcher and Buch mostly shared the No. 2 spot with Matt Rodda.

"I understood," he said. "I was just as liable to throw one over the catcher as I was to throw a strike. I'd strike a guy out, then walk two. Monmouth signed me out of some little, shabby showcase event. Took a chance on me because I could throw hard.

"Freshman year, my fastball hit 90. When it jumped up to 95-96 these last two seasons, the interest increased. My control got much better, too. I just needed experience, and to go out there day after day and work at becoming a better pitcher."

Buch this season went 7-5 with a 4.31 ERA. In 77 1/3 innings, he allowed 85 hits and 34 walks while notching 92 strikeouts.

Money won't be an issue.

"I said all along that I'd sign if someone took me in the first 10 rounds," Buch said. "I spoke with the White Sox and it sounds 90 percent certain they'll send me to their rookie-ball team in Montana." *