Mickey Jannis, former Eagle, Bulldog and Indian, makes MLB debut with Orioles | Local Sports


As a 5-foot-9, 200-pound right-handed pitcher, Mickey Jannis did well to be effective at the junior college level. 

Even catching on at Cal State Bakersfield was impressive for the diminutive pitcher. 

But Jannis didn’t stop at the collegiate level. Oh no.

In fact, Jannis was eventually drafted by Tampa Bay, an actual major league franchise, out of CSUB in the 44th round in 2010. 

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Jannis didn’t stop at the minor leagues, though. The soft-throwing righty eventually reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher.

That metamorphosis has now taken the former Arroyo Grande and Hancock College standout to the highest level of the game.

Jannis made his major league debut Wednesday, pitching in relief for the Baltimore Orioles. 

Now, that debut didn’t go as planned, but Jannis is now one of approximately 20,000 baseball players to ever make the majors. 

Jannis made his debut in Baltimore against the Houston Astros. Baltimore, with the second-worst record in the majors, lost to Houston 13-0. Jannis gave up seven runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings. Yordan Alvarez, Abraham Toro and Chas McCormick each homered off the righty who has developed a unique pitch.

Most knuckleballers throw their primary pitch in the 70-75 mph range, but Jannis’ main offering sits at 78-82. He even mixed in an 88 mph cutter. 

According to MLB Stats, Jannis, at 33 years and 189 days, is the third-oldest Orioles pitcher to make his debut since the club moved to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954. 

The highlight of his night was probably the 81.7 mph knuckler he threw to Yordan Alvarez for a called strike. Its spin rate was 149 rpm, meaning it probably rotated half a turn. His cutter, in contrast, was 88.1 mph and had a 2,269 spin rate. 

Though Jannis got roughed up, he still got to experience the major league atmosphere, including two foreign substance checks from the umpire crew between innings. 

Jannis has spent 10-plus years in the minors and other leagues. He spent one season with Brisbane in the Australian Baseball League and five seasons in the Independent League. Jannis pitched in Triple-A with Las Vegas as part of the New York Mets organization in 2018 and was with the Syracuse Mets in 2019. He threw 24 2/3 innings with Norfolk, the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, this spring, compiling a 2.92 ERA and striking out 13 batters while walking 10. 

At press time Thursday, Jannis was still up with the Orioles, who began a four-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, New York, Thursday. Jannis is the only knuckleballer in the majors and the first since the Boston Red Sox used Steven Wright in 2019.

Jannis was drafted in the 44th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 out of Cal State Bakersfield. He spent one season at Arroyo Grande High after growing up Carson City, Nevada. He also pitched at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento.

Danny Duffy, Cabrillo High/Kansas City Royals

Wednesday also marked a milestone for another Central Coast pitcher as Cabrillo High grad Danny Duffy made his return from injury.

Duffy started the Royals’ game against the New York Yankees in the Bronx Wednesday night and threw 42 pitches over two innings. He didn’t allow a hit and struck out four while issuing three walks in the second inning. 

Duffy was on the injured list with what the team called a flexor strain since May 12.

Duffy is 4-3 on the season with a sparkling 1.85 ERA in 43 2/3 innings pitched. He’s struck out 52 batters and has a 1.145 WHIP this year. 

Duffy is 68-68 in his career with Kansas City with a 3.94 ERA in 200 starts and 1,155 innings.

Jeff McNeil, Nipomo High/New York Mets

McNeil missed about a month between May and June but has been back with the Mets since June 21.

The super utility man went 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI in the Mets’ 7-3 win over Atlanta Wednesday. That bumped his batting average 16 points to .252 on the season. McNeil has a .341 OBP and is slugging just .369 this season.

The former Nipomo Titan has played in 283 career major league games and has a .312 batting averaging with 33 homers and 126 RBIs. He’s scored 152 runs.

The Mets have a doubleheader against the Phillies Friday.

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Matt Sauer, Righetti High/New York Yankees (minors)

Sauer has made eight starts and nine appearances for the Tampa Tarpons, the New York Yankees’ Low-A affiliate in the Southeast league.

The right-handed pitcher and 2017 second-round pick of New York, is 0-1 with a 4.17 ERA in 36 2/3 innings. He’s allowed 35 hits and struck out 42 batters while issuing 23 walks.

Sauer made two appearances in the minors in 2019 before needing Tommy John surgery. No minor league ball was played in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hunter Barnhart, St. Joseph/Tampa Bay Rays

Barnhart was drafted in the third round last year by Tampa and should make his minor league debut in the Florida Coast League sometime this month or early July. 

Barnhart played his final two seasons at St. Joseph after playing quarterback and pitching at Paso Robles High. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder turned 19 in February.

Chad De La Guerra, Pioneer Valley High/Boston Red Sox (minors)

De La Guerra was dealing with a hamstring strain while playing for the Worcester Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate. 

De La Guerra, who played at Grand Canyon University after playing at Pioneer Valley, has played in 15 games this year. He’s hitting .133 with two hits, two runs and an RBI. His on-base percentage was .381.

De La Guerra has over 1,507 career at-bats and is a .263 hitter in the minors with a .338 OBP and a .758 OPS. He was drafted in the 17th round in 2015.

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Spencer Howard, Templeton High/Philadelphia Phillies

The 24-year-old Howard was drafted 45th overall out of Cal Poly in 2017. 

The right-hander is having a mostly down 2021 season with the major league club. Howard is 0-2 with a 5.59 ERA in 19 1/3 innings pitched. He has struck out 26 batters with four starts and four relief appearances. His WHIP was at 1.500.

Howard went 1-2 with a 5.92 ERA in 24 1/3 innings in 2020. 

Mac Lardner, Templeton High/St. Louis Cardinals (minors)

Lardner is a lefty from Templeton who had a long career at Gonzaga. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cardinals and has thrown 15 innings in Peoria, the High-A affiliate for St. Louis.

Lardner has a 6.00 ERA with 14 Ks and a 1.40 WHIP in 2021.

To update us on any professional players or coaches from Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties that we may have missed, send an email to Joe Bailey at jbailey@santamariatimes.com.


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