Thursday, December 10, 2009

Local Pitcher Changes Teams

Baseball's winter meetings are wrapping up in Indianapolis. While some teams are making trades, and others are signing players to hugely expensive contracts, younger players are preparing for a first shot at the majors.

One of the ways the kids get said shot is via the Rule 5 Draft, which was held Thursday.

The draft is meant as a way to keep teams from stockpiling young players in their farm system without ever giving those kids a reasonable shot at the bigs. Teams that select players in the Rule 5 Draft have to keep the player on their major-league roster for the entire season. If they don't, they have to sell the player back to the team they were drafted from.

For former Duluth Denfeld Hunter Ben Jukich, Thursday's selections may be his big break.

After spending the entire 2009 season in the Reds' farm system, he was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals seem to like Jukich's potential out of their bullpen.

"The idea is that he could be anything, really," general manager John Mozeliak said. "He's someone who can pitch more than an inning. He has been used in the past as a starter. He gives us some flexibility.

"He's had success, and whenever you're looking at someone that might have to be used as a left-handed reliever, we felt that he had a good enough breaking ball to survive. But more importantly, when you think about the Rule 5, if you are having to carry him, he's got to be able to get more than just one out."

If Jukich doesn't stick with the Cardinals, he has to be offered back to the Reds for half of the $50,000 St. Louis paid Cincinnati as part of this selection.

In the meantime, we salute Jukich. You don't hear much about local players getting a shot in Major League Baseball, so we hope for the best.

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