Feb. 14, 2009
Duluth's Jukich invited to Reds camp
By Jon Nowacki
Chris Bosio was just called up from Class AAA
in August 1986 when he walked into the office of Milwaukee Brewers
manager George Bamberger.
“Mr. Bamberger, I’m here to pitch,”
“I know you are,” Bamberger replied.
“You’re starting tomorrow.”
Never mind that Bosio was a reliever and hadn’t
pitched more than two innings that summer. When you get to the big
leagues, you do whatever they tell you.
Duluth native Ben Jukich has heard that story
before from Bosio, his former pitching coach, and the 6-foot-4 left-hander
appears willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill his lifelong
dream of playing Major League Baseball. Today, the 26-year-old reports
to spring training in Sarasota, Fla., with the Cincinnati Reds .
This is the third spring training for Jukich,
but the first time he has been invited to a big-league camp.
“I feel great about the position I’m
in,” Jukich said. “This is what I was hoping for after
the end of the last season. It’s always nice to get that news,
but I’m not there yet. I’m a nonroster invite. I’m
not on the 40-man [roster]. I’m not on the 25-man. I’ve
calmed down since then knowing that there is still work to do.”
Jukich has come a long way since he was a lanky
standout on the hill for Duluth Denfeld. He bounced around after
high school before starring at Dakota Wesleyan in Mitchell, S.D.,
leading the NAIA in strikeouts and attracting the attention of pro
The Oakland A’s drafted him in the 13th
round of the 2006 draft before trading him to the Reds the following
Last summer Jukich went 8-4 with a 3.57 ERA with
Class AA Chattanooga before being called up to Class AAA Louisville.
Bosio, who earned 94 victories in 11 major-league seasons and threw
a no-hitter for Seattle in 1993, was Chattanooga’s pitching
coach last summer and worked a great deal with Jukich.
With a fastball in the high 80s, Jukich isn’t
overpowering but is adept at throwing strikes and logging innings.
On top of that, he led the Southern League in pickoffs. Bosio said
Jukich is in the mold of Bosio’s former teammates Dan Plesac
and Jamie Moyer, guys who “made a lot of money and won a lot
of games pitching under the radar with control.”
“Ben has a knack for being able to throw
any pitch at any time, and that’s a sign of a good major-league
pitcher,” Bosio said. “You can’t be afraid when
you’re pitching, and Ben follows that rule. Ben is one of
the better pitchers I’ve had the pleasure to work with.”
Jukich had mixed results in his brief stint with
Louisville last summer. He lived this past offseason in the Boston
area with his fiancee, Ashley Lawreck, whom he met at a national
junior curling tournament. Jukich worked out all offseason at a
baseball facility near his residence.
“It’s a double-edged sword,”
Jukich said. “I have an opportunity to make a good impression
on a new general manager [Minnesota native Walt Jocketty], but I
also have a chance to hurt myself if I go in unprepared.”
Jukich said he will likely start the season in
Bosio is confident his former pupil will eventually
get the call he has waited his whole life for.
“All Ben has to do is throw strikes and
change speeds, and there is always a spot for a left-handed pitcher,
especially a long, lanky guy with a rubber arm and good pickoff
move,” Bosio said.
“Ben will get his opportunity, and everybody
up in that town where you guys are at is going to go, ‘You
know what, I remember when.’ ”