MINNEAPOLIS • The Air Force Academy could soon witness the launching of twin athletic careers in the Twin Cities.
As Austin Cutting tries to make the Minnesota Vikings roster as the first long snapper ever drafted by the NFL franchise, pitcher Griffin Jax is storming toward a role with the Minnesota Twins.
Jax was drafted in the third round of the 2016 MLB draft, but then pitched sparingly over the first two seasons as he served on active duty and played in the minor leagues only when he could work it into his leave time.
But given a full season this year for the first time thanks to the World Class Athlete Program — a provision made possible because baseball was added to the 2020 Olympics — Jax has exploded with an all-star season for Double-A Pensacola.
Through his 18th start Thursday, Jax is 4-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 100⅓ innings with 72 strikeouts and 22 walks. Hitters are batting .242 against him and he has a 1.13 WHIP (walks and hits per inning).
The strikeout rate would be the one knock on the 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander, but that has increased of late. In his past five starts, he has 27 strikeouts in 29⅔ innings after posting 45 in his first 70⅔ innings.
His ERA ranks fifth in the league.
Between 2010 and 2015, Twins Double-A pitchers threw at least 85 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA 12 times, and eight of those pitchers reached the major leagues.