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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 16, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Bob Feller watches Mariners lose

feller 002.jpg

That’s Indians’ Hall of Famer Bob Feller, 90 years young, today after Cleveland earned a walk-off 4-1 win against the Mariners’ split-squad at the Indians’ spanking new complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Feller is looking pretty spry, I must say. He was signing autographs and greeting fans.

The big story here was the pitching of Chris Jakubauskas (I’d better learn to spell that name), who followed his last eye-opening stint (three innings of no-hit ball against the Royals) by working five very impressive innings against pretty much the Indians’ first team (minus Grady Sizemore, most notably). He blanked them for four, then gave up one run in the fifth inning on three hits — one an infield single. Ty Van Burkleo, who was managing the Mariners here, said that Jakubauskas’s biggest problem was that he was so efficient he didn’t even reach his pitch count. He wound up in the mid-50s through five.

“There were other guys we wanted to get work, too. I was thinking this guy might go seven innings,” Van Burkleo said.

Jakubauskas had no strikeouts, but also no walks, which was a welcome sight to Van Burkleo, who managed the M’s against Arizona over the weekend and suffered through a 10-walk game.

“This was a little different — polar opposite,” Van Burkleo said with a laugh. “Jakubauskas pitched a great game, man. That kid did a great job. I can’t say enough about him.”

In his last game, Jakubauskas was a last-minute substitute for Erik Bedard. This time, he found out yesterday he was going to pitch.

“Same approach I had last time – go in and throw a lot of strikes, and hopefully they put the ball in play early, which they did today a lot,” he said.

Jakubauskas, 29, is one of the best stories in camp, a non-roster guy who was a first baseman and outfielder in college at Santa Clara and Oklahoma. He went undrafted, converted to pitching, kicked around the indendent leagues for four years and finally signed with the Mariners in 2007. Now he’s trying to make the club out of spring training.

“I’ve had a pretty good spring, knock on wood; it’s not over yet,” he said. “I’m definitely trying to make this club. There’s definitely some spots open. That’s out of my hands. All I can do is take the ball when they give it to me and prove I can pitch at the highest level, do my job and open their eyes a little bit.”

Jakubauskas, who had a breakthrough 8-1, 1.93 season last year between Class AA West Tennessee and Class AAA Tacoma, doesn’t care if he’s a starter or reliever if he can break camp with the team.

“Whatever they want me to do it, I’ll do it. I knew coming in we had five guys – actually six guys for five starting rotation jobs. That’s fine. Those are big league guys, veteran guys that have pitched up there for awhile. I’m just trying to make the club. Whatever facet they want me to fill, I’m in. I’ll do whatever they want me to do, whether it be long relief, starting, two-inning guy, it doesn’t matter to me. As long as I can break and make this club and contribute and help us to a winning season.”

Justin Thomas, who came in with a 24.75 ERA, worked a 1-2-3 inning, with a strikeout. The game was tied 1-all heading to the bottom of the ninth, when Cleveland’s Chris Gimenez lofted a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer to left off Luis Pena to end the game.

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