Based on recent career numbers, it certainly would have been fair to speculate on just how successful Janson Junk might be in making the full-time jump to the Double-A level.
In his last full season, Junk posted a relatively high 1.654 WHIP over the course of 22 starts — all but two of those came in what was, at the time, High-A Tampa — and that would seem to be an indicator that he might, at the very least, have some early struggles with the Somerset Patriots.
But he hasn’t.
Anything but, actually.
In an admittedly small sample size of just 11 innings over his first three starts this season — he’ll make his fourth tonight against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — the 25-year-old righty has posted an 0.82 ERA, but perhaps more importantly, a WHIP that’s at an even 1.000 heading into Tuesday’s outing.
How has he cut down on baserunners so far this year?
“It’s a mindset and performance thing,” he explained in a recent Zoom.
“We took a year and a half off, and I put my head down and tried to work on my command, my mentality and how I approach the game. Walks and hits are going to happen, but I’m always trying to evolve and get better. I don’t want to think about walks or hits too much though, I’m just trying to compete, take it pitch-by-pitch and execute one pitch at a time.”
Truthfully, while some things have changed for Junk stuff-wise since he last pitched in 2019, he says the energy he wants to bring on the mound is the most noticeable difference from then to now.
“Just taking that year and a half off, I was away from the game for the first time and for that long, so coming back to it and having all that energy and joy about being back on the field, I feel like when I’m on the mound, it really comes out,” he said.
“Also, I have a lot of things I’ve been working on pitch-wise. For instance, my slider, it wasn’t too good in 2019. I struggled facing right-handed hitters, so that was a big focus in the offseason. The last two starts I’ve had have been mostly righty lineups, and I’ve used it a lot, so it’s probably been a 50-50 split between my fastball and slider. Just pitch usage, throwing more breaking balls, and throwing those fastballs in there when I need to keep them off-balance has really helped me.”
But, back to that energy. It’s evident. The Washington native has a big smile, and flashes it often on bump day.
“I’m always a laid back, positive guy, and I try to bring that positive energy to the field,” he said. “I try to not get too down, try to not get too high. I try to just stay level-headed, but I always want to be positive.”