He made his big league debut in April 2009 as a 30-year-old, and, after 35 games and a 5.32 ERA that year with the Mariners, he was waived and picked up by Pittsburgh. His Pirates career lasted 12 pitches and ended with "one serious concussion," Jakubauskas said.

Initially in the hospital, he barely slept. Every two hours, nurses would wake him to check on his mental status. Eventually, those periods stretched to four hours and he began improving. But it would be a long time before he didn't feel "like you were drunk 24 hours a day."

"I was dizzy and foggy for a good month, then I started to feel a little bit better," said Jakubauskas, who was diagnosed with a concussion and head contusion, but nothing more severe. "Then I went through a light workout and was just getting stretched [out] and I got some bad vertigo, like it happened again, and so that was another three and a half, four weeks I was out."

He pitched briefly in the minors again that season, struggling to stay in baseball shape and regain his endurance. The Orioles signed him in January as a minor league free agent without an official invitation to spring training. But he made a strong impression in March, was promoted in April and is 2-0 with a 5.18 ERA in nine big league games, including four starts, this season.

"It's an incredible story," Orioles right-hander Brad Bergesen said. "For a lot of people, it gives them that sense of determination and perseverance, and he is the perfect example of all those. So to know what he went through to get here, it's amazing."

Bergesen can somewhat relate to what Jakubauskas experienced in 2010. His promising rookie season in 2009 ended in July when he was struck in the left shin by a liner off the bat of Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler.

The next year, when he faced Butler again, Bergesen said he immediately recalled that previous at-bat.

"Absolutely. It was not something I was fearing or there was any doubt in my mind, but the thought does definitely come back when he comes up to the plate," Bergesen said. "Instantly, you're like, 'This is the guy that had me out for two months.'"

Jakubauskas said he expects to talk to Berkman on Tuesday at Camden Yards to reconnect before Wednesday's start. In a sense, Jakubauskas' comeback will be complete after that game. He has pitched again in the big leagues, he has made a big league start and now he'll face Berkman.

"When you list it out like that, I guess you could say, yes, just get him in the box and get it over with," Jakubauskas said. "But once I started throwing in games, I was pretty much over it and you just go from there."

Berkman said he's hoping for a different outcome.

"I'd rather strike out four times against him than hit another ball like that," said Berkman, who has hit two other pitchers in the head with liners in his pro career. "I'll definitely be thinking about it. It's a weird situation, and hopefully we can both get through the game without any sort of incident at all."

Things, though, haven't gone that smoothly for Jakubauskas this year. He has been struck by batted balls three other times this season — in the foot, thigh and shin — after having it occur only one other time, in 2003, before Berkman's line drive.

"I'm going to have to put a magnet on, put a magnet in my back pocket just to get some reverse polarity going or something," Jakubauskas joked.

Joking about the incident has been his panacea throughout the past year. He has played the video clip so often for friends at home that it now angers his wife when he calls it up on the computer. He even kidded his wife this week that she's not allowed to watch TV because he knows it inevitably will be replayed on highlight shows while Berkman is in town.

Jakubauskas also quipped that he now he has a message for every baseball he throws toward the plate:

"Stay away from me, ball. I have done my time. I have paid my dues."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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