Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Ben Jukich, SP

One of the biggest stories from the Oakland A's draft last season was the rapid rise of 13th round pick Ben Jukich. Jukich was selected from a small school, Dakota Wesleyan, at age 23. He quickly moved through short-season Vancouver and was promoted to Low-A Kane County, becoming one of the Cougars' top pitchers by the end of the season. We caught-up with Jukich on Saturday in Stockton.

Lefty Ben Jukich has had an up-and-down season for the Stockton Ports. Jukich has alternated good starts and bad starts for the Ports almost all season. Through 58.1 innings, Jukich has a 5.40 ERA. However, he has an excellent K:BB ratio (46:15). We caught-up with the lanky lefty on Saturday before the Ports game with High Desert.

OaklandClubhouse: How do you feel your first couple of months have gone in the California League? You've had a good strike-out to walk ratio, but you have given up a lot of hits. Do you feel like that has been a product of the crazy California League ballparks?

Ben Jukich: A lot of it has been adjusting to the league, the hitters, the size of the ballpark has a lot to do with it. First month that I was here, I struggled with my command quite a bit. I was really up and down. I'd have a good game, then I'd have a bad game. For the most part now, I have been able to find myself in this league and I feel a lot more comfortable.

OC: What are you throwing at this point?

BJ: I throw my fastball, my two-seam. My curveball is my bread-and-butter. I throw a slider and my change-up is still a work in progress.

OC: You've made a big jump from being drafted last year to starting in Stockton this year. Has it been a lot to learn?

BJ: Yeah, it has. There has been a few set-backs. You know, coming into this league after being drafted at 23 years old, it isn't something that happens that often, so you kind of have to learn quickly, otherwise you get moved out. It has been interesting. I have had a lot of fun doing it.

OC: You had kind of an unorthodox journey through college to the pros. Did you learn a lot from that?

BJ: There are a few coaches that I have had who have helped me define who I am and to utilize the talents that I have to be the best baseball player that I can be. I have definitely learned a lot over the last few years of my life about who I am. Missing three years of baseball and then coming back into it isn't something that is very easy so without the coaching staffs that I have, I don't know where I would be.

OC: What has you first extended stay in California been like?

BJ: It's hot. [laughs] Being from northern Minnesota, I feel like I am going to melt. It's nice playing in this ballpark. It is one of the nicest ballparks in the league, and we get that breeze that usually blows out, but it still feels good. [laughs]

OC: What were the adjustments you made when you were working on improving your command?

BJ: Just trying to find a rhythm, and staying in that rhythm. I struggled a little bit with my mechanics early on and Garvin [Alston, the Ports' Pitching Coach] helped me figure out a few things. At the beginning of the season, I think I was trying to over-throw the ball a little too much. Coming into last year, I was a 90-92 guy and coming into this year, my velocity has been down a little bit and I think that had a lot to do with the way that I was pitching early on, trying to over-throw the ball. When you try to reach back and the 92-93 isn't there, you kind of fool yourself because if you leave the ball over the middle of the plate, it is going to go a long way.

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