SAUGET — Jake Kaase is swinging a different kind of lumber for the Southern Illinois Miners this spring training.
Kaase spent the past year working in a lumber yard and finishing his math degree after getting released from the Texas Rangers’ organization in April 2011. The 26-year-old utility player will graduate from Texas Lutheran University in Seguine this weekend, he said, and hopes to swing the bat well enough to find a spot on the Miners’ 24-man roster.
“I’m getting back to how I was feeling in Double-A and High-A, so, I’m enjoying it,” Kaase said.
Kaase singled in Saturday’s exhibition opener and had two hits in Wednesday’s 6-5 win at Gateway. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound lefty doubled in the sixth and had one of three hits in a three-run eighth that put the Miners up for good. A .260 career hitter in four years in the minor leagues, Kaase hit .281 at Double-A Frisco, Texas, in 2010-11 and has already made some big plays, defensively.
On Wednesday, the shortstop made a diving stop to his right in the seventh before getting the force out at second base. He played every position but center field and catcher in the Rangers’ organization, pitching three innings as a reliever.
“(He) started a big part of our rally that ended up winning the ballgame for us, made a few great plays at short, so I’ve seen a lot out of him,” Miners manager Mike Pinto said. “He’s a very good fit for us.”
Pinto does not expect to use Kaase as a pitcher if he makes the team. First cuts could come as soon as today, after the Miners’ home exhibition game against the Grizzlies. First pitch at Rent One Park is scheduled for 10:05 a.m.
On Twitter: @Todd_Hefferman