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Former Gahr High star Jacob Faria made his seventh start of the season last Friday night, pitching into the seventh inning, allowing five hits, striking out four, walking two and throwing 110 pitches. He got a no-decision but lowered his earned run average from 2.11 to 2.00. Courtesy Los Angeles Angels.


By Loren Kopff

David Faria, the father of Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria couldn’t have said it better when he said that watching his son face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was icing on the cake. Jacob Faria, the ex-Gahr High standout, became the latest of stellar pitchers to come out of the high school and make it to the Major Leagues.

In front of well over 200 family and friends scattered throughout Angels Stadium, Jacob Faria made his seventh start of the season last Friday night, pitching into the seventh inning, allowing five hits, striking out four, walking two and throwing 110 pitches. He got a no-decision but lowered his earned run average from 2.11 to 2.00. And, he grew up five minutes from the stadium.

“It was weird at first,” Jacob Faria said. “I tried to make it feel like it was just another game. But then after being in the outfield stretching and running and just looking up…it was pretty awesome.”

The 2011 San Gabriel Valley League Pitcher of the Year and two-time Los Cerritos Community News Pitcher of the Year, made his pro debut on June 7 against the Chicago White Sox and ever since, has not disappointed. Including the game against the Angels, he had allowed one earned run in five of the seven starts and lasted at least six innings in every start.

Against the Angels, he worked a perfect bottom of the first, fifth and sixth innings. The lone run he allowed in a 2-1 Tampa Bay win in 10 innings was a home run to Albert Pujols to lead off the second. Jacob Faria would get into trouble in the next two innings as the Angels were threatening to take the lead. But the 6’ 4”, 235-pound hurler with a mild-mannered personality got Cameron Maybin to line out to end the threat.

“I think it was a matter of mindset,” Jacob Faria said. “Early in the game…I had the same problem before, making non-competitive pitches early in the at-bats and having to really throw pitches in the zone when I don’t want to throw them in the zone.”

“I didn’t think Jake was as sharp as maybe we’ve seen him,” said Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. “But it looked like the command was a little bit of an issue for him. [Pitching coach Jim Hickey] made the point maybe he was trying to do a little bit too much early in the game and especially with his off-speed pitches. A lot of his balls were in the dirt. But give Jake Faria a lot of credit for making an adjustment and being able to overcome, maybe not feeling his best.”

Through the first four innings, Faria had thrown 76 pitches. But in the fifth inning, he struck out Cole Calhoun, got Mike Trout to fly out on one pitch and induced Pujols in a groundout. The next inning, he got Yunel Escobar to fly out on one pitch, struck out Andrelton Simmons and received a comebacker from Luis Valbuena.

“I thought he did a really nice job of that,” Cash said of bouncing back in middle innings. “We’ve said that from day one; since we’ve seen Jake, whether he’s putting himself into those jams or we didn’t make a play behind him, or whatever it is, it seems like it doesn’t rattle him too much. He just continues to get back on the mound, focus on the batter and not what’s taken place before that.

“He got into a pretty good rhythm there,” Cash added. “That was his best stretch when he already had 85 pitches under his belt. He continues to impress for a young guy who has [seven] starts in the big leagues. His presence on the mound and the way he carries himself seems like more of a veteran who has been out there a lot more than he has.”

According to David Faria, the family had season tickets for four or five years when Jacob was growing up and his first baseball game he saw was an Angels game. They would see roughly 50-60 games a season and their seats were down the right field line because Jacob was a Vladimir Guerrero fan. Jacob also modeled the pitching delivery of Jared Weaver and learned how to play baseball by watching the Angels play.





“I really didn’t focus on a major league baseball career,” David Faria said. “The focus was on [Jacob] getting seen by college coaches. He committed to California State University, Fullerton and that was what we were looking for. It was his senior year [at Gahr] when all of a sudden he had all of these scouts following him throughout his senior year and he ended up getting drafted.”

David Faria said he left it up to Jacob on draft day to decide what he wanted to do as he weighed the pros and cons of going to CSUF.

Jacob Faria was drafted in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft but it wasn’t until 2015 that his ascension towards the Rays began to take off. After pitching in 31 games through his first three seasons in the minors with 14 decisions, Jacob Faria started 23 games in 2014 for Bowling Green, pitching close to 120 innings. Then the real fun began for him, and the Rays organization.

He was the 2015 co-Florida State League Pitcher of the Year as he went 10-1 with an earned run average of 1.33. The next season, he shared time with the Montgomery Biscuits in AA ball and the Durham Bulls in AAA and had a combined 5-10 record in 27 starts. He began this season in Durham where he went 6-1 with an ERA of 3.07 in 11 starts with 84 strikeouts.

David Faria recalls that he was at work when Jacob called after a Durham Bulls game and thought it was weird that he would call at that time of day. He had told his father to get a ticket for Tampa because he was starting on June 7. In his debut, he lasted into the sixth inning, allowed three hits, struck out five and walked two. He left with the Rays up 3-1, which would be the final score.

“Just overall excitement,” Jacob Faria said of his emotions. “Not to say that I was sitting there expecting [to be called up] because there are so many guys who can go up there in front of you.”

As it related to last weekend, David Faria said he had planned on getting a block of tickets for Friday and Saturday, then decided to reserve a block for the entire weekend. He figured his son would start Saturday or Sunday but had until July 10th to let the Angels know which day he needed for the tickets. He received a call from Jacob on the 8th to let him know he was pitching the first game out of the All-Star break.

“Just to see where he has gotten to, from starting when he was a little kid until high school and to the minor leagues…I never missed a minor league season traveling up to see him…to where he’s at now is awesome,” David Faria said. “He’s worked so hard; been through the ups and downs of the minor league system and his hard work has really paid off.”

“On the plane trip, I didn’t really start thinking about it until we started to land,” Jacob Faria said of coming home for the first time as a major league player. “It feels like I’m coming home but I’m coming here three months early. A lot of things came into my mind but it was really fun.”

The fast start to his professional career has already made its way to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before last Friday’s game, there were only two other active pitchers-Weaver and Zach Duke, who had started 4-0 or better with an ERA of 2.11 or lower through their first six starts. He is the first pitcher since Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees to begin his career with half a dozen quality starts and became the first player in Tampa Bay history go at least six innings in his first six starts.

“I really don’t know what to say about that,” Jacob Faria said. “I’m just trying to take it and run with it and as long as I keep doing good and everything is going well, I’m just going to ride it out.”

“He’s a young guy who has been, for the most part, really quiet,” Cash said. “Every fifth day he probably speaks volume for what he does on the field. But this organization, fortunate for the Rays, has developed a lot of really good pitchers and it seems like he’s falling in line right with a lot of those big names.”

Three days before Jacob Faria made the start against the Angels, another former Gahr pitcher was basking in the national spotlight. Houston Astro pitcher Chris Devenski, who also was in the same draft class as Faria, pitched a perfect inning in the All-Star Game. While they were never Gahr teammates, they have the same pitching coach. The Rays and Astros will see each other in a four-game series July 31-Aug. 3 in Houston with Faria projected to start the third game of that series.

Before those two, it was 2003 graduate Kris Medlen who was called up to the big show in 2009 with the Atlanta Braves. After spending the past two seasons with the Kansas City Royals, Medlen is back with the Braves organization.

“It’s been great,” Jacob Faria said of the Gahr connection. “We go to Houston in two weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing buddies of mine. It’s just cool. Guys like Devo…we didn’t go to high school together. He was a senior when I was a freshman at a different school. But we work out together in the offseason. Just to see those guys doing so well is awesome.”