By STEVE KRAH
A change of scenery can be just what a ballplayer needs.
Even if that scenery is familiar territory.
Jarrett Grube — traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Cleveland Indians organization in mid-June — is pushing the baseball re-fresh button in a return engagement with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.
Grube, who grew up in Corunna, Ind., and graduated from DeKalb High School (where he played for head coach Chris Rhodes) in 2000, was the Opening Day starter for the International League’s Buffalo Bisons and made 11 starts with that Toronto affiliate before becoming Cleveland property for the third time in his career.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander played for Columbus in 2015 after a stint with Quintana Roo in the Mexican League in 2015 and again in 2016 after time with the Pacific Coast League’s Tacoma Rainiers in the Seattle Mariners organization.
Going into a start Saturday, July 22, Grube was 3-5 overall with a 4.70 earned run average in 16 starts, including 1-2 and 1.69 in five starts for the Clippers. He came off the 7-day disabled list July 16 (right-hand discomfort).
“Things weren’t going my way for whatever reason,” says Grube. “I just call it the ’tale of two tapes.’ Now I’m back over here doing what I’ve always done.”
What Grube has done when successful is keep the opposition off-balance.
“I’m not even thinking about mechanics,” says Grube. “It all just happens fluidly and easily. I’m throwing a lot of strikes and mixing my pitches and keeping the hitters guessing on what’s coming in different counts.”
As a free agent veteran, the Indians brought Grube back because of his track record at the Triple-A level.
“They support you and give you info about the hitters so you can have success,” says Grube. “When you’ve been around for awhile, they let you keep doing your program. As long as you communicate, they support you.”
Between starts, Grube does a longer running session with stretching, some weightlifting and works with a trainer on Day 1. The second day includes long toss, a bullpen session and heavier total-body lifting with two days of recovery before the start. Day 3 is about stretching things out and getting rid of built-up lactic acid. Day 4 is devoted to rest and stretching.
Grube, who played at Vincennes University for head coach Jerry Blemker (who died in 2012) and at the University of Memphis for for head coach Dave Anderson, was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made his lone MLB appearance with Los Angeles Angels in 2014 (he retired Josh Donaldson and gave up a three-run home run to Yoenis Cespedes).
One thing that’s kept Grube from being predictable is his ability to change arm angles.
It all just flows.
“When I’m at my best, I’m not really thinking about anything,” says Grube. “I’m throwing every pitch I want to throw in any count and getting a lot of weak contact, maybe strikeout an inning for however many innings I pitch.”
As a 14th-year professional, Grube has learned plenty.
“You learn to grow as a player,” says Grube. “Sometimes you have to take lumps and be able to turn the page pretty quick. You sit and dwell on things, I know that. There’s going to be a lot of things that are out of your control that.
“You just keep on with what you’ve got pictured in your mind that you want to accomplish.”
Grube has been a starting pitcher in Triple-A. If he gets called up to the big leagues, his role would likely be out of the bullpen.
“I’ve got the stuff to relieve, too, for sure,” says Grube.
Born in Fort Wayne (where he lives in the off-season with wife Alyssa and daughter Ensley), Grube’s early diamond days were spent in the Tri-County Little League and in AAU ball. He was a member of the Aboite Braves, coached by Brett Ratcliffe (who is now head coach at Garrett High School).
Grube credits Blemker helping to make him mentally tough, something that has helped him ever since.
“He’d say some things that would make you upset or frustrated,” says Grube, who won 12 games and struck out a then-school-record 172 batters in two seasons with the VU Trailblazers. “He was kind of like a drill sergeant. But he was doing it in a fatherly way. He was trying to get the best out of me. He was lying the foundation for me to go to D-I and then pro ball.”
Grube gained wisdom from Anderson, who played 10 MLB seasons including with the World Series-winning 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers and went on to coach and manage in pro baseball.
Jarrett Grube, a 2000 DeKalb High School graduate, is in his 14th professional baseball season in 2017. (Columbus Clippers Photo)