Having grown up in Long Beach, right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong had the expected reaction Wednesday at learning he’d been traded from to the Mariners from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It does sting a little bit,” he admitted, “but that hurt was very short-lived knowing the opportunity here was much more prevalent. I think I’ll be able to help this team out.”
The Mariners acquired De Jong as part of their continuing bid to build organizational pitching depth. He is ticketed for duty this season at Triple-A Tacoma but should get an extended opportunity this spring to create an impression.
“He’s young and polished and has four pitches,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He throws lots of strikes and has shown strong performance at upper levels.
“He also has six-plus years of major-league control and has three options. There’s plenty to like.”
De Jong, 23, blossomed last season by going 14-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A Tulsa before winning his only start at Triple-A Oklahoma City after a late-season promotion.
“Honestly, my stuff is not going to wow you,” he said, “but I am going to get the job done. I go out there, and I compete as well as anybody. You can expect me to try to cover my innings and try to take a little stress off the bullpen.”
De Jong credits his breakout season, in part, to the development of a cut fastball.
“I’m a fly-ball pitcher,” he said. “Developing a cutter last year at the halfway point with Billy Simas has helped me become more of a ground-ball pitcher. But I understand Safeco is pretty friendly to fly-ball pitchers, which is nice to hear.”
The Mariners obtained De Jong for two minor-league players: shortstop Drew Jackson and right-handed reliever Aneurys Zabala. They cleared space for De Jong on the 40-man roster by designating infielder Mike Freeman for assignment.
“They’re all three very versatile players,” Dipoto said. “All three do very good things. But in Mike’s case, we thought he was odds-on favorite for us to be able to squeeze him through (waivers). We’d like to keep all three players.”
Toronto selected De Jong in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft but traded him to the Dodgers midway through the 2015 season in a deal that returned international bonus-pool money.
“It’s hard to argue he wasn’t the best pitcher in Double-A last year,” Dipoto said. “Across the board. He struck them out. He didn't walk them. He suppressed runs, and he won games. A pretty good combination.
“He’s a player we’ve tried to acquire multiple times dating back to last July. So this was just a culmination of what I think is hard work to try to drag him in.”
De Jong made one scoreless two-inning appearance earlier this spring for the Dodgers and is tentatively ticketed to work Sunday behind Felix Hernandez against Oakland in a split-squad game at Peoria Stadium.
“Nobody in here has really seen me,” De Jong said. “I’m sure people have watched me, which is why I got traded, but for them to see me with their own eyes, I think that will be important. I just want to make the most of that opportunity.”
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners