Houston Astros: Talking Stros with Fresno POY Jordan Jankowski

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Feb 26, 2015; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Jordan Jankowski poses for a picture during photo day at Osceola County Stadium Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2015; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Jordan Jankowski poses for a picture during photo day at Osceola County Stadium Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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Houston Astros Prospect Jordan Jankowski’s wife’s name is Jordan too.

The Houston Astros drafted a catcher in 2008 by the name of Jordan Jankowski in the 34th round out of Peters Township HS in Pennsylvania. Instead of signing with the Astros, Jankowski decided to go to college instead, so he attended Catawba College in North Carolina. During that time, he made a position change hoping to be drafted earlier after college. However, after five years of college, he was indeed drafted again in the 34th round of the 2012 draft.

While it may not have been as publicized the Corpus Christi Hooks awards from a few weeks back, Jankowski won the Fresno pitcher of the year award in 2015. Jankowski may not be on a top prospects list, but he still can pitch well, especially out of the bullpen with a starter’s arsenal. He pitched in the rotation in 2014 with the Hooks but was moved to the bullpen with Fresno. Jankowski is part of the bullpen depth that Jeff Luhnow has built up to back up the current guys at the big league level.

Jordan Jankowski Interview

CTH/TexSR: Where are you calling us from?

Jankowski: I’m up in Pittsburg, I just got back from San Juan, Puerto Rico, I played winter ball there for about six weeks.

CTH/TexSR: I guess a little more snow up in Pittsburg than in San Juan?

Jankowski: When we got back, we got 10 inches of snow. That’s pretty good luck right there.

CTH/TexSR: You went down to the Dominican, but played only one game there, what happened?

Jankowski: I pitched two games in the Dominican, and then I left the Dominican and flew overnight to San Juan, it was a 45-minute flight, and then I stayed there for six weeks.

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CTH/TexSR: Why the switch in venues?

Jankowski: It was a need thing, in the Dominican, they needed a starter, we had a lot of relievers, and I was the new guy. They said, we need you to start, I told them that’s not what I do anymore. The Astros didn’t want me to do that type of thing, I found another team to play for so I can get my innings in.

CTH/TexSR: I understand you play fantasy football, how did your team do this year?

Jankowski: I started off really well, but then I fell off really bad, went on a six-game losing streak to end the season. I missed the playoffs, so it wasn’t the best year for me, but next year I will build on it.

CTH/TexSR: I hope you don’t play fantasy baseball?

Jankowski: No, absolutely not, I would never play that. Fantasy football is just a fun thing I like to do during the offseason.

CTH/TexSR: Did you grow up a Pirates’ fan?

Jankowski: I did, I had season tickets going to Pirates games growing up. I would sit in the left field bleachers and watched some tough years for the Pirates.

CTH/TexSR: Who were some of your favorite Pirates’ players?

Jankowski: Actually, I was a big Ken Griffey Jr. guy growing up, most people don’t know that the Astros drafted me in 08′ as a catcher, then I went to college to make the change to be a pitcher. I liked Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) and Griffey growing up. I didn’t really have a Pirate player I was a fan of, I mostly went to watch the games.

CTH/TexSR: So you were a bandwagon fan? Just kidding. Talk to us about the move from catcher to pitcher, how did that come about?

Jankowski: In high school, I was mainly a catcher, I pitched a little bit. Then I went to college at Miami University (OH), my first year they did not have a lot of pitching, so they said you can catch a little bit, but we need you to close games. I would close mid-week and start Friday or Saturday. The next year, I went to full-time closer and I caught some as well, I took a ball off of my wrist in summer ball, then they said you would mainly DH and pitch. After that, I just figured to stick with pitching.

CTH/TexSR: Are you the only person in history to be drafted by the same team and in the same round twice, 2008 and 2012?

Jankowski: I’m not sure, it’s kinda unique. My dad always jokes with me that I got seven picks better after four years in college. It was pretty cool, I got to go to the same team, and it was a no regrets type of thing.

CTH/TexSR: It appears that you are a big strikeout pitcher, 77 strikeouts in 62.1 innings pitched. For fans who don’t get to see you every day, tell us about your arsenal.

Jankowski: I throw a 4-seem fastball, a slight curveball, a slider, and I will occasionally will throw a splitter. The splitter is something that I have worked on for the past couple of years. Fastball is 89-93 MPH, slider is in the low 80’s, and my curveball is in the high 70’s or low 80’s. I’m a max effort type of guy, you won’t get anything less than that with me.

CTH/TexSR: What is your out pitch?

Jankowski: I go to my slider as my out pitch, I throw it a good amount, I would say that it’s my best pitch.

CTH/TexSR: Anything you have worked on this offseason in Puerto Rico?

Jankowski: Yes, actually, the is the first time that I have really been in the bullpen, so I went from piggyback starter to full-time reliever, which was really tough for me. I wasn’t used to having to get up every day or two days and be able to throw. I think going to Puerto Rico, I tried to get myself on the mound every other day to get my body used to the work. It was a difficult transition, so that’s one of the things I worked on, I even did that before I went to Puerto Rico, throw bullpens every other day.

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CTH/TexSR: Was it your or the Astros decision to go play winter ball?

Jankowski: We talked about playing winter ball, after the Dominican situation happened, I talked to Quinton McCracken and he said if you want to play go right ahead. I talked to some teams in other countries and then I decided on Puerto Rico because it was closer to home and I could get home for Christmas. It was a better fit, the people there were great, it was a mutual decision to keep going and to keep playing.

CTH/TexSR: At the Bloggers Roundtable at Astros Fanfest, when asked if there were any hidden gems in the farm system, Mike Elias threw your name out there as one of those players. How does that make you feel?

Jankowski: Really, I didn’t know about that, does make me feel good. (They listed you among Tyler White and Matt Duffy) That’s an honor to be listed with those names, they were really good at what they do.

CTH/TexSR: Looking at your numbers, 3.18 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, did you lead the league in ERA?

Jankowski: I don’t know, I didn’t really think about it much, it was a fun year. I was always an east coast guy, so it was cool to see the west coast.

CTH/TexSR: National Champion Jordan Jankowski, how did it feel to win the championship? Is that you first one with the Astros system?

Jankowski: I was part of the Quad Cities team, but I wasn’t there for it in 14, other than that, I think the PCL Championship was bigger for our team, the National Championship was like the gravy on top. It was nice to walk away and know that we were the best team in Triple-A baseball.

CTH/TexSR: What is your favorite costume that you own?

Jankowski: For Halloween, I was definitely a Ninja Turtle, but the joke was that I was a minion because that was a nickname I got. A fan made a sign for me and wore Minion goggles and held up a minion too when I pitched. I know that they are probably listening right now, I really appreciated. The Minion costume was a surprise, I walked into the locker room of the day of the National Championship, and the costume was just sitting there.

CTH/TexSR: Are you considered the class clown, or do you just sit there and mind your own business?

Jankowski: I definitely mess around a lot with the guys in the bullpen, you have to keep it loose down there, Kevin Chapman would definitely say that I talk a lot. I definitely mess around a lot with James Hoyt, I try to loosen up the atmosphere and mess with them as much as I can.

CTH/TexSR: Did you pay to keep the Taco jersey from Taco Truck Night?

Jankowski: Actually, it was a Christmas gift from my parents, so I actually have my Taco jersey. I think they were auctioned off, so it just so happened that my parents were able to get a hold of mine. I was actually surprised when I got it, I wore it on Christmas day.

CTH/TexSR: Was it weird walking around the stadium on Taco Truck night?

Jankowski: The atmosphere was great that night, I ended up pitching that day and I think it was the longest outing of my season, going two-plus innings. It was cool, Luis Cruz, I played with him in Puerto Rico, I kidded with him and said that he was the face of the Taco jerseys. His response was that I might be a taco, but you are a Minion.

CTH/TexSR: So you are not the typical two-pitch reliever?

Jankowski: Yeah, coming over as a starter, I brought all those pitches with me. I used to throw a splitter-changeup more when I started and I will try to get back to that this year as much as I can.

CTH/TexSR: You are what we would call a vulture with 8 wins out of the bullpen. Was that more than you have gotten in any season as a starter?

Jankowski: It might be, yes, I’m not sure. It was kinda weird, for about a month, if I came into the game and we were tied or losing, we came back as soon as I pitched. It was really weird, mostly luck, but as long as we win, it doesn’t matter. (His career high for a wins in a season was five)

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CTH/TexSR: Did you steal some of Brady Rodgers‘ wins?

Jankowski: I think I did, not sure, but he would make it know that I had 8 wins. He told me that I was a reliever and have eight wins, how does that work?

CTH/TexSR: This is your second spring training appearance, can you tell us about your first?

Jankowski: Experience last year was pretty cool, got to go in there and soak up as much information as I could from the staff and older players. I learned I had to relax a little, learned from Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, they told me there is not a lot of pressure here, just come in and let the staff know what you can do. Believe in yourself and do your thing, you will be fine. I am a lot more prepared than I was last year because I was pitching six weeks in winter ball, I’m going to go in, relax, and do what I know I can do and go from there.

CTH/TexSR: Have you heard anything about where you are going this year if you don’t make the MLB roster?

Jankowski: They don’t tell us anything until the last three days of spring training. Wherever I go, I will give my best and go from there.

CTH/TexSR: Is it true they post a list that tells you where you are going?

Jankowski: Yes, everyone knows the particular time and day where the lists will be posted, but normally one guy goes in there and takes a picture and sends it out to everyone else. It’s exciting for most of the guys, especially the guys who have been in the organization for a long time to see where they will go. By the end of spring training, you have an idea of where you are going, so there are not a lot of surprises, maybe a few here or there.

CTH/TexSR: What’s your most embarrassing moment on the mound.

Stokowski: In little league, during the championship game here, I gave up a walk-off home run to a girl. That was pretty embarrassing.

CTH/TexSR: Chicks dig the long ball.

Jankowski: It was crushed, it wasn’t a cheap shot, it was way gone. The girl had broken our first baseman’s hand the day before by stepping on it, and she was kind of dominating the team at the time.

CTH/TexSR: Talk to us about your control on the mound.

Jankowski: I think I walked a lot more in the past, control has never been a problem for me, I did have some control issues the first half of the season, but it got better as the year went on. This is something I will focus on this year; I promised myself the walks will go down.

CTH/TexSR: What are three things Astros fans should know about you?

Jankowski: One, as a pitcher, you will get someone who attacks guys and does not give in. Two, as a person, I’m not going to be the shy type and joke around with fans, I wasn’t afraid to talk to fans at Fresno. Three, I don’t know if you will convert me to a Houstonian, I’m a pretty strong Pittsburg boy, my heart will always remain there. For football and other sports, it will be hard to convert me. I have one other cool fact, my wife’s name is Jordan as well.

Next: Houston Astros: Was Doug Fister a Steal for Jeff Luhnow?

Thanks to Jordan Jankowski for taking the time to call in to @TalkingStros. You can follow him at @JJ_Jankowski33, and there was more that Jordan talked about, but I’ll let you listen to hear the rest. Don’t miss tonight’s Talking Stros, we will have Matt Duffy and J.J. Cooper of Baseball America.

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