KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After years and years of training and a lifetime of preparation, 1st Lt. Griffin Jax of the United States Air Force Reserve finally received word late Friday night of a promotion he had been long awaiting.
No, his rank wasn’t bumped up, though Jax is expecting a promotion to captain sometime this summer, following in the footsteps of his wife, Savannah, who was promoted to Captain in May.
Jax was promoted by the Twins, his contract selected officially on Saturday as the right-handed pitcher was added to the 40-man roster. To make space on the roster, the Twins designated Juan Minaya for assignment.
Upon his debut, Jax, 26, will become the first United States Air Force Academy graduate to be drafted and play in the majors.
“The path I took to this point has been really unique and it sort of helped formulate and mold me into a different type of person,” he said. “Going through the service academy is not for everybody. It takes a different kid out of high school growing up, one that really understands more about themselves and one that’s more mentally mature, I would say, from that standpoint. But in that sense, I’m truly grateful and excited to represent the Air Force in this capacity and in this way.”
The Twins drafted Jax in the third round of the 2016 draft, and he’s worked his way up through the minors, fulfilling his Air Force duties along the way.
The starter got the call on Friday, coming off of his best start with the Triple-A Saints this season. Against Iowa last Friday, Jax twirled six shutout innings, giving up just a hit. For the season, he had a 3.33 earned-run average with the Saints, giving up no more than a run in four of his five starts.
While Jax did not pitch in a game last year as the minor league season was wiped out, he spent the beginning part of the pandemic throwing with reliever Taylor Rogers in Colorado, who he said really “taught me a lot about how to handle my business and what would be expected of me.”
Instead of treating 2020 as time off, Jax said that time was “groundbreaking,” using it instead to make himself “an entirely new slash better pitcher,” to help earn himself one of two big promotions he’s been looking forward to.
“It’s truly unbelievable,” he said. “I’m still sort of shocked. I wouldn’t even necessarily say that it’s hit me so far. Being with all these guys up here just puts a smile on my face.”
Jax’s promotion came after Matt Shoemaker got shellacked on Friday, giving up nine runs — eight earned — on Friday, forcing the Twins’ bullpen (and Willians Astudillo) to cover all but one out. Shoemaker now owns a 7.28 earned-run average, but the Twins don’t plan on taking him out of the rotation at the moment.
“Right now, there’s no change in our rotation. We also have a lot going on in our rotation health-wise,” Baldelli said. “Matt, I know what he’s going to do. He’s going to continue to work.”
Already, Kenta Maeda is on the injured list and the Twins have pushed Michael Pineda back a day. Both will throw a bullpen on Saturday, Baldelli said, and it is likely that Pineda, who dealt with some forearm tightness in his last start, will start on Tuesday. In his place, the Twins plan to have Bailey Ober start in the series finale against Kansas City.
Lewis Thorpe, another option for rotation depth, landed on the injured list at Triple-A on Saturday with a left shoulder strain.
“The plan was to have him get looked at and kind of just make sure, give him a once-over and potentially give him a little time off if he needed it,” Baldelli said. “… His stuff has been a hair down from where he was earlier in the year.”
Matt Canterino, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, was placed on the injured list with a right elbow strain on Saturday. Canterino had a 1.00 ERA in his first four starts with Class-A Advanced Cedar Rapids. … Dakota Chalmers, who the Twins designated for assignment, was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. … The Twins have now matched their franchise record with home runs in 16 straight games.