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Kragthorpe: Angels give Grube reward for decade in minors

Published June 9, 2014 5:13 pm

Baseball • Bees' pitcher elated after throwing two thirds of an inning vs. the A's
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Seven pitches, two-thirds of an inning, a three-run homer allowed and a dream fulfilled.

Jarrett Grube invested 10-plus seasons in the minor leagues for one moment in the majors, and he considers that trade completely fair.

He's back with the Salt Lake Bees, having pitched five innings with a no-decision in Sunday's 7-6 victory over Sacramento. And if Grube's inconsistent outing suggested he's slightly stunned by this whole sequence, that's understandable. "Pretty enormous turn of events," he summarized one afternoon last week in the dugout of Smith's Ballpark.

Personal struggles and triumphs are standard-issue stuff in Triple-A baseball, but Grube's tale rises above the rest. Nobody could appreciate a weekend in the big leagues more than this guy. Staffing circumstances created an opportunity for the Los Angeles Angels to reward him with what they knew would be a brief big-league stay, but here's where the story gets good: Angels manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher made sure Grube pitched in a game at Oakland on May 31.

"They're pretty intelligent guys," Grube said, "and they knew how much that would mean to me."

So the pitcher who has performed for pro baseball teams named the Dust Devils, Tourists, Nuts, Drillers, Sky Sox, Blue Crabs, Diamond Jaxx, Rainiers, Generals, Travelers and Bees suddenly was on the mound for the Angels.

Life-changing events usually occur with the help of other people, intentionally or not. Grube's story unfolded on a Friday night when Garrett Richards, one of the Angels' best pitchers, failed to finish the first inning against the A's. Wade LeBlanc, recently summoned from the Bees, had to pitch 6 1⁄3 innings of relief.

LeBlanc's unusual workload meant the bullpen would be short-staffed that weekend, so Grube became the 10th pitcher recalled this season from the Bees, who were playing in Tacoma. To accommodate Grube, the Angels waived LeBlanc — risking that another team would claim him, as the New York Yankees did.

Skipping to the end of the story, the Angels optioned Grube back to Salt Lake after the weekend series, activating outfielder Josh Hamilton from the disabled list. The in-between part involving the 32-year-old Indiana native is the good stuff.

Fully appreciating all of it probably would require having the last name of "Grube." The pitcher's wife, Alyssa, was hoping the A's fans wouldn't notice her tears as Jarrett jogged in from the bullpen.

Michael Kohn was pitching the bottom of the eighth inning, and Grube was surprised when the phone rang and bullpen coach Steve Soliz told him to start throwing. And then he entered the game with the A's leading 8-3 and two runners on base, facing the middle of Oakland's order.

Josh Donaldson lined out to third, Yoenis Cespedes homered and Derek Norris lined out to shortstop. So ended the eighth inning. Grube's stint with the Angels lasted one more day, long enough for his parents to hug a big-leaguer in a pregame reunion at the O.co Coliseum, and for Scioscia to say he hopes to see him again. The series of transactions boosted Grube's career and helped him financially, giving him a spot on the Angels' 40-man roster.

"Good or bad, no matter how anybody looks at it, to get out there and get my hands dirty was awesome," Grube said. "I take it as a blessing."

And a reward for his decade of pro baseball pursuits, after Colorado and Seattle released him. Even while pitching well for the Bees (3-2, 3.93 ERA), Grube seemingly was doomed to remain a career minor-leaguer. "Something inside told me, 'You're going to do this.' I just never wanted to say, 'What-if?' I just kept persevering and going as long as I could," he said. "Thank God, it worked out."

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com; Twitter: @tribkurt