De Jong gets look from mound as a Traveler
Chase De Jong knows how it looks.
The preseason trade that moved the 23-year-old right-hander from Los Angeles to Seattle; the blown save in his major league debut and the two losses that followed; the reassignment to Class AAA Tacoma where he went 3-6 with a 6.00 ERA; all the way down to his Tuesday arrival in Arkansas to join the Class AA Travelers.
It’s the appearance of a promising prospect in freefall — a dizzying series of turns away from the performance that led to him being named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year in 2016 with the Tulsa Drillers.
De Jong said Tuesday that he is intent on proving things aren’t as bad as they seem.
“I’ve taken my lumps,” said De Jong, who will start for the Travs today against the Frisco RoughRiders. “I’ve gotten beat up up there. I’ve had some success. But just to be able to keep going out there, keep learning … I’m definitely looking forward to getting back up there. Showing them what I can do. Showing them that I can be a real asset to them.”
When Tacoma Manager Pat Listach told De Jong on Sunday that he would be sent to Arkansas, De Jong said the move “wasn’t something that I understood.”
“I know my numbers don’t look great, but I know that after the second half [of the season] I’ve been stringing together some quality starts,” said De Jong, who has three quality starts since the break — a stretch that also includes a start in which he allowed eight earned runs in 41/3 innings. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do is get back to how I was throwing the ball last year. Being able to control a game. And I was finally able to do that again. And I was told I was coming down here.”
De Jong said he received a call later Sunday night from Andy McKay, Mariners Director of Player Development.
“He let me know that, ‘Hey, this isn’t a performance-based move,’” De Jong recalled. “‘We’re not demoting you. We just need you to go pitch down there because of the stockpile of arms they have at the AAA level right now.’ It’s not like I’m not a Triple A or big league pitcher anymore. Just right now, on Thursday, I’m going to throw for Little Rock. I’m going to throw as best as I possibly can.”
Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto had high praise for De Jong when he traded two minor league infielders to the Dodgers for the former second-round pick on March 1. De Jong had just gone 14-5 with a 2.86 ERA for Class AA Tulsa in the Dodgers organization.
“He’s a player we’ve tried to acquire multiple times dating back to last July,” Dipoto told the Tacoma News Tribune.
The Mariners entered the regular season with four pitchers on the disabled list, and De Jong was called up from Tacoma on April 3. Two days later, the Mariners entered the bottom of the 13th inning with a 3-2 lead over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. De Jong, who is normally a starting pitcher, was the only fresh arm left in the bullpen.
His major league debut consisted of getting a ground out, before sandwiching a foul out between a walk and a single.
Then, Astros right fielder George Springer hit a walk-off home run to deep left field.
“Couple things go a different way, I end up the hero in that scenario,” De Jong said.