Southern notes: Twins' Jax jumps back in

Pensacola hurler, Air Force grad setting sights on 2020 Olympics

Griffin Jax has not allowed a run in Double-A, scattering seven hits and four walks while fanning nine in 10 2/3 innings. (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)

By Brian Lester / Special to MiLB.com | April 18, 2019 11:30 AM

This is supposed to be Griffin Jax's first season back in baseball. Had that been the case, he wouldn't be in Pensacola playing Double-A ball for the first time in his professional career.

After pitching in five games in 2017 because of a two-year active duty commitment to the military, the Air Force Academy graduate didn't expect to return until this season.

Fortunately, a door opened that changed everything for the No. 23 prospect in the Twins organization.

He applied to the World Class Athlete program, which was created by the Department of Defense and allows active duty service members who are athletes the chance to train for a spot on the United States Olympic team.

He's hoping to play in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"It was a whirlwind process. I had such a short window to apply to get enrolled for 2018," Jax said. "I didn't have much time to sit back and enjoy it. I was busy getting the paperwork in. It was stressful but I'm glad it happened."

Jax has made the most of it. He appeared in 15 games last season for Class A Advanced Fort Myers, fashioning a 3-4 record and recording 66 strikeouts.

The former third-round pick of the Twins has made two starts for the Blue Wahoos. Though he has to yet to pick up his first win, he's looked solid, striking out nine in 10 2/3 innings. He's given up seven hits but has yet to allow a run.

When he returned to baseball full time last year, it was as if he never left.

"I jumped right back into it and it was almost as if I didn't miss a beat," Jax said. "My body felt great. My arm felt great. I didn't really feel like I missed any time, which was awesome."

2019 MiLB include

Blue Wahoos manager Ramon Borrego is impressed with what he's seen out of Jax in the two seasons he's managed him.

"Since the first time we saw him, there has been a lot of improvement," Borrego said. "His breaking ball has gotten a lot better. He always knew how to throw it. But now he's learned how to locate the breaking pitch when he needs to throw it."

Borrego loves the work ethic Jax brings to the table.

"What we see is a guy who is working hard to condense the time he lost and make up for it every day," Borrego said. "He is a really hard worker."

The progress Jax has made is partly a credit to the time he spent in the Arizona Fall League. He played for the Salt River Rafters and came out of it a better player.

"That was probably the coolest baseball experience I've dealt with," Jax said. "Just playing with that caliber of player, and just the full-on experience of knowing a lot of those guys are going to be in the big leagues this year or the next few years. It's a whole different level of baseball. I learned a lot from it."

With a military background, Jax understands life outside baseball as well as anyone. It makes him appreciate the opportunities he has in front of him even more. He plans to take full advantage.

"It's everyone's dream [to play Major League Baseball]. It's why you are here," Jax said. "It's a really cool opportunity to try to make the Olympics, too. If I'm selected to that team, I'm going to wear the military's uniform and the country's uniform."

In brief

Difference maker: Luis Aviles Jr. didn't need a hit to lead Biloxi past Pensacola Tuesday night. His walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th inning was the difference in a 3-2 win at MGM Park. It's the third run he's driven in over the last four games and the first walk-off win of the year for the Shuckers.

Strong and steady: Home is a great place to be for Taylor Trammell, one of the league's hottest hitters. The No. 2 prospect of the Cincinnati Reds extended his hitting streak at home to five games Tuesday in Chattanooga's 5-3 loss to Mississippi. He hit a double to keep the streak going and has 12 hits in 10 games.

Hot Biscuits: Montgomery pieced together its first three-game winning streak of the season with a 7-3 win over Mobile on Tuesday night, thanks in part to Brendan McKay allowing only one run on three hits while striking out seven in four innings in his second Double-A start. The Biscuits have scored five or more runs eight times in their first 11 games, putting seven on the board three times.

Brian Lester is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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