Chase De Jong was recalled to Seattle in late April when Felix Hernandez went on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.
2013 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Chase De Jong is finding out just how hard it is to win in the major leagues. The 23 year-old righthander made his third major league start for the Seattle Mariners, facing the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft – the Toronto Blue Jays. The way things were lining up, there appeared to be a reasonable chance De Jong would earn his first big league victory in Canada given the events leading up to the game.
De Jong was very deserving of a victory in his last start against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field May 6. He completed six innings and allowed just one run (a Joey Gallo homer) on four hits with no walks while striking out three, including a whiff of Rougned Odor on a 75-MPH curveball. Of his nine outs in play, six were on the ground. He left the game with the score tied at 1-1 but as luck would have it, the Mariners would take the lead with seven runs in the seventh and go on to win the game 8-2 with James Pazos earning the ‘W’ instead.
De Jong’s performance impressed Rangers manager Jeff Banister, noting De Jong “really did a good job against us. Kept us off-balance and from getting the barrel on the ball.” De Jong also earned praise from Mariners skipper Scott Servais.
“He’s very slow-pulsed and never seems rattled. He knows who he is and doesn’t try to do too much. He just tries to make pitches and when it’s not quite there, you just keep moving ahead a pitch at a time. He’s very mature for a 23-year-old kid.”
Overall, De Jong was happy with his outing.
“I find success in doing my job, covering my innings and not walking guys. Tonight I did my job. I went out there and competed and just tried to go as long as I could, as long as they’d let me, and it was a lot of fun to do.
“Pitching to contact, being aggressive, that’s what I know I’m capable of doing. I know the front office and Scott and [pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.] have all the faith in the world in me and know I’m able to do that, but to finally put together a body of work like that in front of fans and everybody, it’s very comforting to say, ‘Look, I can get outs at this level.’ That is very comforting.”
Before taking the mound at the Dome Thursday, De Jong was given a two-run lead to work with when Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer off Marco Estrada. However, De Jong gave up a bad-hop single to 2011 Vancouver Canadians outfielder Kevin Pillar that handcuffed shortstop Jean Segura. Ezequiel Carrera followed by dropping in a base hit to left field to put runners on the corners. Though Pillar would score on a single by former Mariner Justin Smoak, De Jong got Steve Pearce to hit into an inning-ending double play to keep Seattle ahead by a run.
De Jong settled down by sitting down 12 of the next 14 batters, including a strikeout of Carerra, to get him into the fifth inning with Seattle still ahead 2-1. The Long Beach, California native was a strike away from a 1-2-3 frame after getting ahead of Pillar 1-2 by throwing him three fastballs. However, De Jong went with three breaking balls to try to get Pillar to chase. If it was one year ago, chances are Pillar might have gone down swinging given his proclivity to chase anything with movement. However, the new and improved 2017 edition of Pillar laid off those three offerings to draw a walk. A Carrera single and a Jose Bautista walk loaded the bases and Smoak jumped on a 75-MPH curve to score Pillar and Carrera. Pearce then hammered a 92-MPH fastball to left to put Toronto ahead 6-2. De Jong did get out of the inning but that was the end of his night as the Jays would win the game 7-2.
Servais called De Jong’s outing a case of growing pains.
“He was in a little trouble in the first on some softer hits. But he had two outs and nobody on in the fifth with a 1-2 count, then the walk to Kevin Pillar. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but you can never let your guard down in the big leagues. He just didn’t finish off the inning and then they got something going against him.”
Despite the end result, De Jong says it was fun to face the team that drafted him.
“My cousin [Jordan De Jong] got to the big leagues here. It’s a city, ever since I started my career, I thought I’d get here and I was excited to be here. Playing against the jersey was very cool, to say the least, but tonight came down to the fact I wasn’t as crisp and didn’t command the ball as well as I should have.”
Given that four-fifths of the Mariners starting rotation (Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Drew Smyly) are on the disabled list, De Jong should have more opportunities to capture that elusive first major league win. His next start may be next week when the Mariners begin a homestand against the Oakland A’s on Monday.