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Baseball: Former Southold standout, Dave Kubiak, makes his Triple-A debut

Dave Kubiak has played for many professional baseball teams over his career. A reporter’s count had it at 17 teams.

“Seventeen sounds about right,” said Kubiak.

Kubiak said his father has at least one cap for each one of those first 16 teams. Dr. Richard Kubiak should receive at least another addition to his collection from his son at the conclusion of this season — the one Dave wears for the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate.

The Rangers purchased Kubiak’s contract from the West Virginia Power of the Atlantic League last Thursday and assigned the Southold High School product to the Round Rock Express (Texas).

“I hadn’t really had much discussion with them,” the 6-foot-7 righthanded pitcher told The Suffolk Times Monday afternoon in a phone interview from Albuquerque, N.M., where he made his Triple-A debut that night against the Albuquerque Isotopes, who are part of the Colorado Rockies’ farm system. “I don’t think my agent had much discussion with them. I think it was just kind of right place, right time. I think they had a couple, one or two, guys go down with some COVID issues and needed some arms, so here I am.”

Kubiak got the start Monday night and didn’t factor in the decision as the Express lost, 9-5, at Isotopes Park. He pitched five innings, allowing three runs on five hits, with five strikeouts. Facing 20 batters, he allowed two home runs, didn’t issue a walk and threw 54 of his 77 pitches for strikes.

It marked the first time Kubiak has played for a Major League Baseball affiliate since 2012, when he reached the Double-A level with the Yankees.

Kubiak, who turned 32 on Aug. 3, is in his 10th year as a professional. He hasn’t given up on his dream of reaching the major leagues.

“I’m still at the point where it’s kind of my goal to pitch in the big leagues, so to me, I haven’t obtained what I tried to do,” he said. “It’s a nice validation for me right now and letting me know that I’m not crazy thinking that I could still do this.”

Kubiak was a 36th-round draft pick out of SUNY/Albany by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. He has played every year since then except for 2013 when he couldn’t find a club and took “a forced break.”

Kubiak is living a fascinating baseball life. He has played in Mexico, Taiwan, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. In 2020 he was the Dominican Winter League Player of the Year. He was a two-time all-star for the Somerset Patriots when the New Jersey club played in the Atlantic League.

Though his career has been largely injury-free, Kubiak strained an oblique muscle that cost him an opening night assignment and put him out for about seven weeks this season, a period he said may have been the most difficult of his career. He went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 44 innings this season for the Power.

Entering Monday night’s game, Kubiak went 2-2, with a 2.84 ERA, 40 strikeouts and nine walks over 31 2/3 innings in two minor league seasons, according to baseball-reference.com. His total numbers in five years of foreign leagues: 13-13, 4.62 ERA, 211 strikeouts, 99 walks, 253 1/3 innings.

Ironically, the Express is nicknamed after hard-throwing Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, who was called “The Ryan Express” for the heat he delivered.

Kubiak’s repertoire: cutter, sinker, curveball, changeup. “That hasn’t changed since I got out of high school,” he said. “I’m not exactly a flamethrower. I’m an 89, 91 [miles per hour] guy, but I don’t throw a four-seam fastball. I don’t throw anything straight … I’ve just kind of stuck with what I know I’ve been good at and have been able to make it work for me.”

“This has been my goal and, to me, it’s not really sticking with it, it’s just something I got to do,” he continued. “This is how I’m going to get to my dream … It’s been fun. It’s been a wild ride.”

And the best part about the ride is that it isn’t over.