De Jong gets look from mound as a Trav­eler

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - OUTDOORS/BASEBALL - BROOKS KUBENA

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.

De Jong

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