By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jimmy Yacabonis enjoyed one of the best seasons for a reliever in recent St. Joseph’s University program history back in 2013.
As a junior that year, the 6’3″, 205-pound right-hander set a program record with 10 saves while putting together a 2.02 ERA and striking out 48 batters in 35 2/3 innings of work. That performance caught the attention of the Baltimore Orioles and they selected Yacabonis in the 13th round of the MLB Draft that year.
This season, Yacabonis is working out of the bullpen for Baltimore’s High-A club, the Frederick Keys. In 16 appearances, he is 2-2 with 2 saves and a 3.65 ERA.
“Really just trying to get my off-speed over early in the count,” Yacabonis tells KYW Newsradio. “Because we see these teams a ton of times. Including us, there’s only eight teams in the (Carolina) League, so a lot of times a lot of guys know I like to use my fastball, so they’ll swing early in the count at the fastball. So it’s either I try to locate that fastball down or try to get a slider or change-up over for a strike.”
Listen to the entire interview with SJU product Jimmy Yacabonis
Yacabonis got off to a rough start this season, compiling a 6.10 ERA in 6 April appearances while walking 12 batters in 10 1/3 innings. But he’s been much sharper since then, putting together a 1.88 ERA in 10 games in May or June. He’s walked just 7 batters batters in 14 1/3 innings during this stretch while striking out 14.
“I would say my first few outings, I was a little anxious when I got out there,” Yacabonis says. “Trying to do too much, overthrowing a little bit, staying up in the zone, walking a few too many guys. But the last ten innings or so I really started to string it together, feeling a lot better with my release point and just getting all my pitches over for strikes.”
Yacabonis is one of a handful of players taken in recent MLB Drafts out of St. Joe’s and he talks about the biggest thing he learned during his time on Hawk Hill.
“Challenge guys,” Yacabonis says. “(Head coach) Fritz (Hamburg) was huge on that. He was always big on pitching to contact, trying to get early outs, keep your pitch count down and make them hit you. I mean you walk guys, you are your own worst enemy.”
Yacabonis and the rest of the Frederick Keys will be in Wilmington to battle the Blue Rocks through the weekend.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.