Wardell Donald Starling III
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 205 lb.
- School Odessa Junior College
- High School Lawrence E. Elkins High School, Spring High School
Throwing the four basic pitches, including a good curveball and a fastball that peaks around 93-94 mph, Wardell Starling first reached prominence when his Spring, TX team made the finals of the 1995 Little League World Series before losing. In 2001, he was on the USA Baseball Junior National Team. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with their fourth round pick of the 2002 amateur draft but did not sign and became a draft-and-follow.
Starling went to junior college (10-3, 2.22 ERA plus a .420 average, 12 homers and 81 RBI) then signed with Pittsburgh scout Tom Barnard. He debuted with the 2003 GCL Pirates, going 4-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 52 K in 48 innings while walking 13. Moving up to A ball, Starling was 11-8 with a 4.11 ERA for the Hickory Crawdads in 2004. Wardell was 10-10 in 2005 but his ERA rose to 5.22 with the Lynchburg Hillcats and his K rate fell. He led the Carolina League in runs allowed (98) and earned runs allowed (89).
In '06, Wardell was 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a .95 WHIP for Lynchburg and was called up to the Altoona Curve. Finally getting to bat in Organized Baseball, he singled in his first at-bat off of Kip Bouknight on June 20, then doubled in two runs an inning later on a shot that could have been a three-bagger. Even though he was yanked in the bottom of the 4th, manager Tim Leiper thought enough of his bat to let him swing away in the top of the fourth with two men on, but he grounded out to Kory Casto. Starling rebounded from a rocky debut on the mound to go 6-5, 2.80 for Altoona and hit .368/~.400/.632.
The Pirates sent Starling to the Hawaii Winter League for further development. He was 1-3 with two saves and a 5.12 ERA in a pitcher-friendly league and walked 13 in 31 2/3 IP for the Honolulu Sharks. Pittsburgh left him exposed in the 2006 Rule V Draft after not adding him to their 40-man roster. He was not picked in the draft.