Jared Carkuff appeared with the C’s at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017.
The latest episode of C’s Chat catches up with 2016 and 2017 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Jared Carkuff. The right-hander was a man on the move in 2017 as he split time with four clubs with the Toronto Blue Jays system. He experienced a move again of a different kind early in 2018 as he wound up with a different organization. The 24 year-old from Bell Buckle, Tennessee was traded by the Blue Jays to the San Diego Padres along with outfielder Edward Oliveras for infielder Yangervis Solarte.
Carkuff recalls where he was when he found out about the trade.
“Me and my fiancee Baylee, we were going to a friend’s wedding. I’m driving and I get a call from Gil (Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim) and it’s always kind of a scary call. You don’t always get calls from Gil. When I get a phone call from him, I don’t know what’s going on. He just comes out and says, ‘Thanks for everything. You’ve been traded to the Padres,’ and then just filled me in on a bunch of details. I didn’t really know how to react. To me, it felt like nothing changed because obviously I’m still in the off-season. I just turned to my fiancee and was like, ‘Hey, I’m with the Padres now.’ It was really shocking, had no clue it was coming but it happened and I’m excited.”
I think It was like a week before I was telling a friend, I was like, ‘I’m a reliever, I’m 24, I’m not going to get traded.’ And it was seriously a week later (laughs) that I got traded so it was pretty funny. That’s how life works. As soon as you think you know what’s going on, it gives you a curveball.”
On having Lansing Lugnuts teammate Edward Olivares joining him in the trade.
“It’s great for both of us. We got to come in, not obviously being complete strangers with everybody. I mean, it was still tough for both of us. We’re both pretty outgoing people. It took us a little while to kind of come out of our cocoons but we helped each other through it so it was nice having Ollie there too.”
On not being considered a major part of the trade with the Padres.
“I’ve been kind of an under the radar guy and I’m completely fine with that. (Drafted in the) 35th round (as a) senior. I’m kind of used to being not quite the underdog but not being, I guess you would say, the first choice and I’m completely fine with that because that just motivates me to prove that not that they’re wrong, that I’m worthy of being that part of the trade and worthy of being a part of that organization.”
On the fact the Padres wanted him included in the deal.
“Yeah, exactly. That’s what some people didn’t understand (about) the trade. They were like, ‘Wow, why did the Blue Jays give you up?’ It was not quite that. It was that somebody wanted me so it’s a big deal. We were so grateful for the Blue Jays and I would never be where I am without them because they gave me the opportunity but it’s also nice to be wanted by another team.”
On how his batterymate at Austin Peay and Lansing, Ridge Smith reacted to the trade.
“He just felt like everybody else, just kind of had no clue it was coming. For us two, it was amazing to be drafted by the same team and be able to play together because I mean, you have chemistry right off the bat. He caught me for three years and knew how I wanted to pitch and knew when I needed to calm down in situations that were high-pressure and just knew how to work with me so that was nice to break me in pro ball. We’ll definitely miss each other but it’s also part of the game.”
On meeting Padres catcher and fellow Austin Peay product A.J. Ellis.
“I got to talk to him two days ago and I was super excited because I was kind of looking around. Obviously I can’t go into the big league clubhouse or anything but I finally ran into him and got to talk to him. We caught up.
He came to talk to us in my freshman year at college. He remembered the name but he had to meet a ton of people that day. It was nice to kind of really meet him one-on-one and talk to him about old times at Austin Peay and just catch up and hopefully be teammates someday.”
Jared Carkuff pitched a shutout ninth to finish out a C’s victory against Everett June 21.
On the difference between spring training in Florida and Arizona.
“It doesn’t rain every day (in Arizona), that’s for sure. I think the weather is a little bit better, the facility’s a little bit newer but it’s still baseball and it’s still hot and I’m still trying to get better and get ready for the season.”
On his spring training experience with the Padres.
“I guess the cliche wherever we would be is, ‘It’s a grind,’ because we get up and we get to the facility at about 6:00 a.m. and kind of do our, what we call, activation. We get ready for the day in the weight room, kind of what you need to get ready for that day. For me, it’s like film roll and doing some back to basic stuff. “
We’ll go eat breakfast, go out to the field and depending on the day, you’ll have a bullpen and that’s kind of your light day. Other than that, we’ll have BP and now that I’m in the National League, we actually bunt so that was fun. It was kind of rough, it’s been about six years but it was real fun for me.
A lot of defensive work, conditioning, then BP at the end where we shag then go in and usually meetings at the end of the day because to kind of get everybody into the system.”
On the last time he had an at-bat during a game before coming to the Padres.
“I would say my senior year of high school so it would be six, coming on seven years. I actually had an at-bat in college because I was a reliever and something happened. I was trying to close a game and I came up to bat and the coach said, ‘Stand back in the box and don’t swing.’ So I don’t count that one.”
On being drafted by the Blue Jays.
“My junior year, I tried to control something that I cannot control and I mean, everybody wants to be drafted but I put too much into it and so after I didn’t get drafted my junior year—which was understandable, I didn’t have a great year—I was so disappointed and down about it.
In my senior year, I was like ‘I can’t control this. I’m just going to let it happen. If God wants me to play baseball, if the Blue Jays want me to play baseball, I’ll play.’
I went and golfed with a friend. Actually I got a call about halfway through my round saying, ‘Hey, we might pick you up the next couple of rounds. About 20 rounds later, I got a text from one of my Dad’s friends that said, ‘Congratulations!’ And so I figured that’s what it was but I haven’t heard anything yet. About a minute later, I get a phone call from the Blue Jays that said I was taken in the 35th round. There’s no way to describe that feeling. I’m sure people have tried but it’s impossible to describe whenever something you worked for your entire life is finally starting to take shape.”
On the Blue Jays scout who signed him.
“Nate (Nate Murrie), he was the area scout for me in Tennessee and we’ve had a really good relationship. We talked my junior year too and he tried to put my name in there and it just didn’t work out, I mean obviously because of the year I had. We still talk. He texts me every now and then making sure I’m doing alright.”
Jared Carkuff finishes off a win against the Everett AquaSox with a scoreless ninth on June 21, 2017.
On earning Gulf Coast League Post-Season All-Star honours in 2016.
“That was amazing for me. Obviously again, 35th round, you want to come in and prove to them not that you’re less of a player but because you’re picked later but just prove to them that you are worthy and that they should keep an eye on you.
I had a great set of coaches. (Pitching coach) Juan Rincon helped me out with a lot of stuff, mainly game planning. That’s the main thing I learned in pro ball and it helped me fix my numbers. It was an unreal feeling being able to be an All-Star.”
On his late season call-up to Vancouver in 2016.
“It was amazing because obviously, that’s the first thing you hear about whenever you come to the Blue Jays in the minor leagues is, ‘Man, you got to get to Vancouver.’ The city’s amazing, the fans are crazy and it’s just an amazing atmosphere. I’m pumped because I’m like, ‘I want to pitch there.’ I want to come in late in the game and pitch at the Nat. Unfortunately, it rained and it really didn’t work out and I go down to Tri-City. I didn’t throw great but I got to get my inning in. I didn’t get much time there but it was a fun experience.”
Jared Carkuff found himself moving on up to Dunedin, Lansing and Buffalo in 2017.
On getting a taste of full-season baseball with Dunedin in 2017.
“I went to extended actually first because I was supposed to be going to Vancouver and then something kind of happened to where I was able to fill in and they needed a guy. I struggled a little bit early I think because of the high level and the label of that. I think I tried to do too much, tried to be somebody I wasn’t. I learned real quick that I had to just trust myself, trust my stuff. Although I think the numbers weren’t great but I ended up having a pretty good month there and learned a lot from the coaches and learned a lot from pitching against some pretty good hitters.”
On whether he sensed the 2017 Canadians were a special team during his brief time there.
“Yeah, definitely. We didn’t even have the draft guys there whenever I showed up but just the pitching staff and coaching staff, just everybody there just seemed like they had it together and everybody was on the same page. You knew there was something special from that standpoint and obviously the draft guys they brought in had a really good year. Hey, I’m happy I played and pitched two, three innings there and I got a ring for it.”
On the prospect of receiving two championship rings from 2017.
“I’ve ordered it and I don’t know if I still get it now that I’m not with them because technically, I get one for Dunedin too because I had time for Dunedin and Vancouver even though I wasn’t there at the end. I got sized for rings for both of them so we’ll see if I get them. They might not send them to me.”
Jared Carkuff compiled a 7-4 record with a 3.21 in his two seasons with the Blue Jays organization.
On getting to pitch at the Nat.
“it’s just unreal. It’s hard to explain. Just the atmosphere is amazing. You can feel the energy there. They’re loud, they’re fun and it just makes you want to perform for them because they love it. The first couple of pitches, I kind of threw them a little too hard because I was so amped up, because it was so fun and then I settled in and I think I had a pretty good inning.”
On getting to ride in the bullpen cart at the Nat.
“I never thought I would ever ride in the golf cart to go to the mound. I was able to see it happen that first day we were up there. We weren’t able to play that day for 2016. I was up there and I saw it happen and I kind of looked at everybody else like, ‘Why is nobody reacting to this golf cart going on the field?’ They were just normal because that’s what they did. Nobody warned me about it and I was actually so excited. I was like, ‘Man, I cannot wait to go in this golf cart.’ It’s such a long run. I hate doing that. It makes me a little tired. I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could have a golf cart every time.’ So it kind of spoiled me a little bit.”
On pitching in Lansing.
“I really enjoyed it. Again, I keep saying it and I’m not just saying it to say it but the coaching staffs were amazing everywhere I go. The Blue Jays really do a good job of hiring people that can really help you. I enjoyed that. I learned a lot from Willie (Willie Collazo), the pitching coach. He taught me to really kind of throw that changeup that I’ve been working on and to throw in times where I wasn’t comfortable doing it because, I mean, you’re never going to be successful if you don’t do something that makes you a little bit uncomfortable and that’s what he really pushed me to do. I think he really helped me become a complete pitcher. I learned so much in Lansing and I enjoyed the stadiums we get to play at and the travel. It was a really fun season even though you want to win a little bit more than we did but the minor leagues is about getting better and working towards that end goal and I feel like I made a huge stride at Lansing.”
On earning the victory in his Triple-A debut for Buffalo.
“That was pretty cool. Actually, I was kind of frustrated because I was in Lansing at the time. I was kind of moved into the closer role and there was my family, just drove up and was in Lansing and it was a one-run game. I was like, ‘Okay, cool! My family finally gets to see me get a save.’ They’ve seen me pitch a little bit but they’ve never seen me get a save. I was so excited and then I didn’t pitch.
At the time, we had a few games left. I didn’t understand and so I was just kind of, I was excited we won but kind of bummed. I was like, ‘Man, I thought I was going to get that (save) with my family there. I go in, the coach calls me in and I’m guessing, it’s like end of the year meetings or something, I didn’t know. And he was like, ‘Hey, you’re going to Buffalo.’ I was like, I kind of laughed at him. I thought he was kidding because from Low-A to Triple-A doesn’t really happen, especially with two games left. He was like, ‘No, you’re going. They need a guy out of the bullpen.’
So I was really excited to go there. Again, another great pitching staff. Even some guys that have been in the big leagues on that Buffalo team so it was cool to kind of sit and listen. They were really nice to me. I just listened to them talk about the game and how much they understand the game. They taught me so much, I just shut-up and listen. That was what I did in Triple-A so that was a fun experience.”
Jared Carkuff throws a fastball, slider and changeup to combat enemy batters.
On continuing to develop his pitches.
“In college, I kind of relied on the slider as an off-speed and my changeup was terrible. Everybody that I tell now that I have a changeup still doesn’t believe me. They have to see it. I’ve worked on a changeup so much, I got to kind of cut back on it so I can figure out the slider.
It’s all been going really good. It takes my game to a new level to having that changeup to kind of keep people off of the slider and definitely keep people off the fastball. It’s changed how I pitch and I think it’s definitely made me a better pitcher.”
On how he sees himself as a pitcher.
“I would just say a competitor because I really don’t have the stuff a lot of people have. I really do believe in my stuff and it’s not like it’s below average. I’m a 90-92 (MPH) guy with a slider and a changeup. Nothing’s going to trick you. I’m just executing pitches and just being a competitor and really believing that I can beat every hitter that I face.”
On who he would compare himself to in the majors.
“I wish I could say Craig Kimbrel, especially since that’s my favourite pitcher but I know for a fact I’m nowhere close to that. Honestly, I never really compare myself as in stuff-wise but there has been a few videos I’ve seen just online and honestly couldn’t even tell you who they were. Just kind of mechanical. Seeing and comparing myself to people that do it good and doing it at the highest level. There’s been a few people I usually compare my mechanics because I got the toe-point of Yu Darvish but I definitely don’t have the stuff Yu Darvish has.”
On his future plans after baseball.
“I was lucky enough from Austin Peay to get my degree in sports broadcasting. I still got a lot to work on but hopefully, my broadcasting career will be after a long major league career but either way, yes I would definitely love to pursue sports broadcasting wherever life takes me but after baseball, I would love to do that.”
My thanks again to Jared Carkuff for taking part in this episode of C’s Chat and I wish him the best of luck with the Padres and in his future endeavours. You can follow him on Twitter @thekuff16.