It's one of the more impressive streaks in all of baseball, and yet I'm terrified to write about it for fear of retribution from the baseball gods. But this has gone on for too long to continue ignoring it.
Low-A Delmarva reliever Jimmy Yacobonis has made 15 appearances on the season and not allowed a run — earned or unearned — in 20 innings of work.
Only two pitchers in all of minor league baseball have gone longer this year without allowing an earned run: Reds prospect Carlos Gonzalez, who has pitched 24 scoreless innings for Class-A Bakersfield, and Jeff Beliveau, a 27-year-old reliever in the Rays system who has pitched two scoreless innings in the big leagues and 21 2/3 shutout frames with Triple-A Durham.
Yacobonis, a 13th round pick for the Orioles last year out of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, began his professional career with a 1.52 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning in 18 relief appearances last year for Short-Season Class-A Aberdeen.
He has racked up 13 saves this year as Delmarva's closer, a role manager Ryan Minor said Yacobonis fell into unintentionally.
On Monday, he pitched the seventh inning of a 2-1 win in the second half of a double-header sweep of Hagerstown. He used his whole body, including his strong lower body, to create power and drive for his 92-94 mph fastball, and showed a firm 84 mph changeup and a 76-mph slider. Yacabonis gets excellent drive towards the plate, and his fastball seems to explode on hitters.
“He goes right at hitters,” Minor said. “He’s got a kind of funky delivery -- he hides the ball well and hitters don’t see the ball well on him. He’s got just enough on his fastball to keep guys off his slider, and he’s done a real good job for us.”
Earlier this month, Orioles manager Buck Showalter mentioned Yacabonis’ impressive season during a media session at Camden Yards. Yacabonis’ performance has led to an organizational mandate to get him more innings, Minor said.
“Now, we’ve kind of adjusted that role to where he’s going to be a two-inning guy now. They want him to pitch a little bit more. He’s kind of jumped on the radar, so they want him to get some innings under his belt. He’s going to be two-innings per outing for now unless we do take the lead in the eighth inning or the top of the ninth, but from now on, it’s going to be more of a two-inning save than a traditional one-inning save.”
That new plan manifested itself Thursday at Lakewood, when Yacabonis earned yet another save with two scoreless frames in the Shorebirds’ 4-3 win over the BlueClaws. He struck out three, bringing his season total to 26, and didn’t yield a hit for the ninth time in 10 at-bats.