RedHawks catcher Jason Jaramillo has spent some time in the majors. Philadelphia's second-round pick nine years ago out of Oklahoma State, Jaramillo was traded four years later to Pittsburgh and played parts of three seasons with the Pirates.
Getting back to the majors has presented challenges. Jaramillo said last season was a reminder to appreciate playing baseball for a living, which gave him added incentive.
After the 2011 season, Pittsburgh released Jaramillo. He signed with Milwaukee, spending much of the season with the Brewer's Double-A and Triple-A teams. He ended the season with Oakland's Triple-A team.
“It was a tough year,” Jaramillo said. “I had a quad injury, leg injury and a back injury, things that hinder your performance. I live on faith in the Lord. Everything happens for a reason. This year I feel great. I'm looking forward to this season.”
Jaramillo, 30, has spent most of his career in the minors.
A career .264 hitter in roughly 2,000 minor league at bats, Jaramillo is an outstanding defensive catcher. The key to getting back to the majors: Jaramillo must hit consistently. He batted a combined .235 in 336 at bats with the Pirates in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Jaramillo, though, had some success in the majors. He hit .326 in limited action (43 at bats) two years ago with the Pirates and batted .252 with three homers and 26 RBIs in his most extensive major league stint (206 at bats) four years ago.
He is off to a slow start (1-for-20) with the RedHawks but is thankful he's healthy.
“He's caught a couple of seasons in the majors,” said RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco. “He's a switch hitter. We're hoping he will take charge and lead some of these young players. We're trying to get his swing right. His defense will keep him around the game awhile.”
Houston assistant general manager David Stearns said Jaramillo was the type of veteran catcher the Astros were targeting.
“We evaluate which minor league free agents we want to bring in,” Stearns said. “It's twofold. We look for guys we think can play and fill a need. But it's also guys we think can be a good influence wherever they end up, whether that's the big leagues or Triple-A.”
Because he's had major league experience, one of Jaramillo's roles will be to provide leadership.
“It has to be,” Jaramillo said. “Maybe somebody will give me another shot in the big leagues in part because of my experience and helping these young kids. That can play a big part.”
Last year was a whirlwind for the Jaramillo family.
One advantage to signing with the Astros is his wife is a Putnam City graduate who played soccer at OSU. Lisa is pregnant with their second child, due in July. Their son, Cruz, is 20 months old.
Their offseason home is in Racine, Wis., where Jaramillo grew up. After spending most of his career with two organizations last season, the family moved from Huntsville to Nashville to Sacramento.
“Baseball is not real kind to families. It's tough, rigorous,” Jaramillo said. “But I love the game. My wife has been very supportive. Being here, we'll have her family to help her after she has the baby and also have some familiar faces in the stands.”
Jaramillo's focus is to get back to the majors.
“I'm going to continue to play until they take the uniform away from me and God says that's it,” Jaramillo said. “I'm going to put everything I have into this year and years to come and pray there's more successful years ahead of me.
“I was humbled last year. I feel there are still a lot of years of big league baseball left in me. I'll just keeping working hard and see what happens.”