Jacob Jeunesse spent the first 11 seasons of his career at the Kansas City Royals. He made his major league debut dressed as the Royal Family. He has enjoyed a host of early adopters in his career and life dreams with the club.
But when last season ended, he had no doubts that he needed to turn the page and start a new chapter in his career by changing the landscape.
Royal family members appointed Jeunesse, who was eligible to arbitrate, to waive the 40-person roster in November. Instead of going to the minor leagues, he became a free agent.
After the shutdown ended in March, Junis signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco Giants. He is currently on the list of injured due to a hamstring injury.
At the Giants club ahead of Tuesday’s game at Oracle Park, Gunness was asked if he would consider returning to the Royals this off-season.
“No, I was definitely ready (to leave),” said Jones. “I was there for 10 or 12 years, whatever. I was ready to get out and try something different and go somewhere new.
“That was definitely a good part of my career, the only part of my career up to this point. I was definitely happy for all the opportunities they gave me, but I was definitely ready to move on and try something different and go somewhere else.”
Jones, 29, has had a great start to the season with the Giants. With his first appearance in nine games (seven starts), he scored a 2.63 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP, opponent’s average hitting .205, 40 strikes and 10 walks in 48 runs. He has a 4-1 record.
A draft of the 29th round of Rock Falls High School in Illinois in 2011, Jones made his major league debut in 2017.
He held or co-led the Royals to wins in 2018 and 2019. He got a late start to the shortened 2020 season because he contracted COVID-19 and started the regular season on IL. He appeared in only eight matches (six matches) that season.
Despite a crippled 2020 season, he has gone into 2021 having made more innings (377 2/3) and starts (67) than any other bowler in the Royal Family since the start of 2018.
But the way things unfolded last season made it clear that his time with the royal family was over.
“Saying it ended well would be a lie,” said Jeunesse. “I think things didn’t turn out great, and it’s happening. That’s part of it, part of the baseball business. It has to be the end of the road at some point. I think last year has definitely been it.”
“You see, they didn’t give me the bid. They let me go, and they just kept going. There was no reason for me to think about re-signing there when I had so many other teams trying to score me elsewhere.
Jeunesse made his comments factual, and expressed no hostility toward the royal family.
While he is rehabilitating his hamstring injury, he is not participating in pre-match exercises and said he will likely not have the opportunity to visit his former club during their visit this week. But he said he had contacted members of the royal family via text message.
Last season, Jeunesse began his final year with members of the royal family working out of the database. But then he started with four games from April 7 to 27 and went 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA with an opponent’s batting average of 0.231, 24 strikes, seven walks and one home run allowed during the four-game period.
Despite his start, members of the royal family brought him back to the bulls when they initially promoted the highest-grossing shooter Daniel Lynch to the majors and put him in the Jeunesse rotation.
Junis struggled on return to the Bullpen (11 hits in 11 1/3 innings, .380 averaged against hits). The royal family picked him to join Triple-A in June. He went to the list of injured in minors from July 9 through August 24. He came back and landed in both the minors and the majors late last season, but finished the season on IL with a shoulder injury.
“Like I said, I’m grateful for the opportunities they gave me and all the years I’ve been there, but it’s definitely time to move on and leave that in the background and move on with my career,” Jeunesse said.
Another change is needed with the giants
Jeunesse described the deal with the Giants as something “too late” this season. He said he spoke with a few teams before the MLB shutdown, but that stopped when MLB transactions froze. He heard from the teams again when the lockdown was over and soon it came to the Giants and another club.
The Giants had the best showing, and Jeunesse loved the idea of being on the West Coast, undergoing spring training in Arizona, and having so many games in that area of the country because of the zoning schedule.
Junis returns to his unofficial home in Scottsdale, so the Giants’ spring training facility is about a 10-minute drive away. During the season, he can go home fairly quickly for a day off with his wife and their three children.
On the field, the Giants had a clear view of Junis and his arsenal.
“When I signed up here, they basically said we have a plan for you,” said Jones. “We think the way you’re throwing, your delivery, it’d be helpful for you to throw two lines and obviously your slider is your slider.”
Gunness said the Giants stopped the cutter he added towards the end of his time with the royal family. But they added a show that he could not master earlier in his career.
“They told me they would develop a change for me, which I was skeptical at first because I was always looking for that promotion,” said Jones. “I’ve tried a million different grips and have never been able to land one.
“They said, ‘We’ll develop one, we’ll show you one. Then we’ll improve that. That didn’t happen right away either. It took that season and even maybe a month ago to get used to it and trust it.'”
What has been different, so far, from Junis’ latest attempt to develop change?
Well, part of it is that he hasn’t had the kind of results he’s seen this season, including a lack of consistent actions with change in the past. Now, he feels he’s been able to replicate the pitch, get consistent actions, throw in and out hits.
Another big part of the success is that the Giants showed him how to undo and release the change in his natural movement. He can now get the movement on the ball he wants without having to flip his hand – or cup – as is common with a lot of changes.
Giants introduced him to the concept of seam effects. As Jeunesse explains, the handles he now uses to shift, and the two threads create a spin on the ball causing air to create the desired movement.
Jones called his first game against the Washington Nationals a “turning point” for his use of the change because he threw it so often and his catcher in that game, Joey Bart, called it a lot in key points against left-handed hitters like superstar Juan. Soto.
“It was fun to have that in my back pocket to accompany my slider and my stitching,” said Jones.
Jeunesse has faced only one opponent twice this season after moving to the National League for the first time. His success over time will be a major indicator of how effective the changes he has made. But he’s enjoying success and his new surroundings at this point.