Saturday, November 21, 2009

Introducing Chris Jakubauskas

RHP Chris Jakubauskas, 30, (his b-day is December 22nd), an Upland (CA) native, is the newest member of the Bucco 40-man roster.

After finishing prep ball, the 6-2, 210 pound Jaku played at Oklahoma and Cal State Fullerton, but any hope he had of being drafted was ended when he underwent Tommy John surgery.

After college, he was an assistant coach for the Los Osos High School team during the 2004-2005 season while his arm was recovering. But the fire still burned.

Jaku continued his career by pitching for several indy teams, including the Lincoln Saltdogs, the Florence Freedom, coached by former Cincinnati Reds player Chris Sabo, and the Fullerton Flyers, where he was the ace, going 14-1 with a sub-3.00 ERA.

His odyssey in the backwaters came to an end when he was acquired by Seattle from Fullerton on June 13, 2007, and assigned to AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx.

In 2008 Jaku played for three different levels in the Mariners organization, the short-season Everett AquaSox, the Diamond Jaxx, and AAA Tacoma Rainiers, where he spent the majority of his time, primarily as a starter.

He also visited the DL twice. The first trip was from June 13 to July 2 with a strained right shoulder, and he was back in the tub again from July 7 from August 27 with a strained left oblique muscle.

Still, he put up great numbers, going a combined 8-1 with an 1.88 ERA, limiting opponents to a .243 average, including a .196 clip against lefties, and a 1.09 WHIP. He averaged 8K/9 IP against 2 walks.

Jaku went into 2009 camp as a long-shot non-roster invitee, but pitched lights out for the M's, and finished camp with a 1.99 ERA. It earned him a spot on the opening day roster.

One huge reason was that the Mariner's had no lefties in the pen - sound familiar? - and Jaku was their best option, a right-handed LOOGY. Shades of Jesse Chavez!

He won his first MLB game on April 10. On August 22, the Mariners optioned Jaku to the Tacoma Rainiers. He was recalled in September and finished his debut season 6-7 with a 5.28 ERA, seeing time both as starter and reliever.

Jaku didn't miss many bats in the show, averaging 4.5K/9 IP, with 2.6 walks and a 1.27 WHIP. He also gave up too many long balls, 15 in 93 innings of work (1.5/9 IP).

Another red flag: Jaku had been bothered by soreness in his right shoulder before his trip back to Tacoma, and some blog and chat boards speculated that he had a slight shoulder impingement. Given his 2008 trips to the DL, that may bear watching.

Jaku has a fastball (88-92 MPH), curve (76 MPH; 12-to-6 break, his bread-and-butter pitch), and changeup (79 MPH; used as a "show me" pitch) tool kit with decent control, helped by a sharp downhill release that allowed him to record 45% of his outs via the ground ball. And he will work inside; he was fined last year for beaning the Indians' Ben Francisco.

Like Jeff Karstens, whom he replaced, he's a minor-league starter whose niche in the bigs is as a long man/spot starter.

He has all three options remaining, and we expect him to settle in at Indianapolis in 2010 to serve as an insurance policy for the Pittsburgh staff.

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