Jaku seeks physical, mental recovery


HOUSTON — The first step for Chris Jakubauskas, obviously, is to get healthy again. He has a concussion and a nasty knot on the back of his head after being struck by Lance Berkman’s line drive Saturday night.

It was the scariest thing I’ve seen in a game since the play in 2000 when Penn State’s Adam Taliaferro damaged his spinal cord and was temporarily paralyzed while tackling Ohio State’s Jerry Westbrooks. Considering how frightening Jakubauskas’ incident looked, he knows he’s lucky to have sustained such “minor” injuries.

“There aren’t any cracks (in the skull), no brain swelling, no bleeding or anything like that,” Jakubauskas said. “I have a mild concussion, so I’ve got to get through that, hopefully, two or three weeks, but that’s optimistic. You never know how you’ll respond.”

Jaku was released from the hospital Sunday morning and rejoined the Pirates at Minute Maid Park during their 10-3 loss against the Astros. He took the team charter to Milwaukee, where the team opens a three-game set Monday, and will be re-examined by doctors. Once his symptoms clear, Jaku can begin his rehab.

Making a physical recovery is one thing. Clearing the mental hurdles, as Paul Maholm explained last night, is another.

“I’d be a liar if I didn’t say it’s popped into my head a couple of times, ‘Am I going to be gun shy when I get back on the mound?’ ” Jakubauskas admitted. “But with as many pitches as I’ve thrown since I was 8 years old, this is the first time I’ve been hit in the head by a baseball. Odds are pretty good that it won’t happen again — but I’ll knock on wood, just in case. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there. But the first thing is, I want to make sure I get healthy again.”

– Exclusive video of my interview this afternoon with Jakubauskas is posted on the Trib’s Web site.

– There’s a big “TBA” in the spot where the Pirates’ starting pitcher should be listed for Tuesday’s game against the Brewers. This morning, manager John Russell hinted that either Brian Bass or Brian Burres might start Tuesday, but both pitched today — Bass going two innings, Burres 1.2 innings. So, it’s up in the air again. It won’t be Brad Lincoln, who pitched Sunday for Triple-A Indianapolis.

– Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (back spasms) today threw a full bullpen session and reported no problems with his sore lower back. Ohlendorf is slated to throw off the mound again Tuesday. If that goes well, Ohly might be ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment, which will include at least two starts.

– Andy LaRoche went 4 for 4 today, and has hits in five straight at-bats going back to Saturday. LaRoche is 11 for 22 over his past eight games.

– The Astros, like every other team in the NL, know they can run on the Pirates. Houston stole six bases, two shy of their team record. It would have been seven, as Michael Bourn had a great jump in the third inning, but Jeff Keppinger foul-tipped the ball. Still, Bourn tied his career-high with three steals.

– Even Pedro Feliz, who’ll turn 35 years old on Tuesday, stole second base today. It was his first theft in 327 games since Sept. 7, 2007. Feliz has 13 career steals in 25 attempts.