Jax looking good for Blue Wahoos

No. 23 Twins prospect outduels Marlins' rehabbing Smith

Griffin Jax has allowed two earned runs over his last 13 1/3 Southern League innings. (Ed Gardner/MiLB.com)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com | June 25, 2019 12:27 AM

Griffin Jax was on a 75-pitch limit Monday. Making his third start since returning from the 10-day injured list, the Double-A Blue Wahoos were trying to slowly build the 24-year-old back up after he missed more than three weeks.

He made the most of the opportunity and outlasted rehabbing Marlins southpaw Caleb Smith in the process.

Minnesota's No. 23 prospect turned in his best and longest outing of the year -- allowing a pair of hits and fanning five over a season-high seven scoreless frames -- but Jacksonville rallied to a 4-2 victory over Pensacola at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The right-hander threw 72 pitches -- 56 for strikes.

Video: Pensacola's Jax fields a bouncer

Jax went on the IL after his May 16 start against Mobile -- in which he allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings -- for precautionary reasons. There were some fatigue concerns for the hurler, so the organization opted to shut him down for a few weeks.

"He was just a little tired, so we decided to give him some rest," Blue Wahoos pitching coach Cibney Bello said. "It wasn't anything to worry about. But when guys get shut down for that long, you have to bring them back up again and that's what we've been doing.

"But he was just fantastic tonight. Everything was working so well, and he was able to get through seven with his pitching limit. It was fun to watch."

Gameday box score

Jax was reactivated on June 10. He allowed a run on one hit and a walk while striking out a pair over 2 2/3 frames against Biloxi. The 24-year-old made his last start eight days ago vs. Tennessee, yielding one run on five hits while notching a punchout over 3 2/3 innings. His longest outing of the year befeore Monday was 6 2/3 innings against Biloxi on May 5.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound righty retired the first 10 batters he faced -- whiffing four -- before allowing back-to-back singles to Riley Mahan and Marlins No. 14 prospect Brian Miller with one out in the fourth. After inducing a flyout to left from 23rd-ranked Joe Dunand, Justin Twine reached on a fielding error by shortstop Joe Cronin.

Jax escaped the bases-loaded jam unscathed when J.C. Millan flied out to center to end the frame.

2019 MiLB include

"He just gave up a couple of base hits there and then there was a mistake from the defense, but I never thought he was in trouble," Bello said. "He was always in control -- the whole game -- working ahead and executing pitches."

The 2016 third-round pick ended his outing the way he started it, sitting down the final 10 batters he faced -- needing just 26 pitches to navigate through his final three innings, including a six-pitch frame in the fifth.

"He's such a hard-working guy and he's always looking to improve," Bello said. "And everything we've been trying to put together this year -- command and execution -- he did that. Everything was working for him. He was locating the fastball to both sides of the plate, his slider was there, and he was able to locate his changeup in the strike zone when he fell behind. It was just fantastic."

The effort lowered Jax's ERA to 1.69 in the Southern League. He sports a 1.01 WHIP with 11 walks over 58 2/3 innings in 11 starts. He was named a Midseason All-Star and earned MiLB.com Pitcher of the Week honors for the week ending on May 5 after allowing one earned run and whiffing seven while walking three over two starts (12 innings.

Video: Shrimp's Smith K's eighth straight batter

In his first rehab start for the Jumbo Shrimp, Smith served up a leadoff dinger to Minnesota's 28th-ranked prospect Travis Blankenhorn before striking out the next eight consecutive batters. In doing so, the 27-year-old became the fifth Southern League pitcher to accomplish the feat. He allowed two runs on two hits and a walk with 11 punchouts over 4 1/3 innings.

Mark Contreras accounted for the other Blue Wahoos run with a tater to left off Smith to lead off the fifth.

Jacksonville rallied for four runs of its runs in the eighth. Anfernee Seymour got Jacksonville on the board with an RBI double to left before Miller and Twine followed with run-scoring knocks.

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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