Cards 'very encouraged' by DeJong's time in Triple-A
ST. LOUIS -- Paul DeJong was demoted from the Cardinals to Triple-A Memphis on May 10, and he was in a Minor League game two days later in Norfolk, Va., but the reality of his situation and the shock of what had happened didn’t truly fall upon him until roughly a week later.
It was then, prior to a series against the Braves' Triple-A affiliate Gwinnett, did the 28-year-old DeJong fully process his predicament and begin to cope with a reality that was admittedly jarring to his very core.
“That’s when I realized, ‘I’m here and nothing is going to save me and I’m going to be the person who has to pull me out of this,’” DeJong said candidly from Memphis after having hit two home runs. “That’s when I realized I need to embrace this.
“That was just one of my realizations I had people reaching out and [hitting instructor] Ryan Ludwick was with me in Gwinnett and said, ‘I want you to play and have fun, instead of putting pressure on yourself.’”
Even now, more than a month after the Cardinals sent DeJong down to work on his swing, he stresses he’s “going through something I never anticipated.” He couldn’t have anticipated this when he hit 25, 19 and 30 home runs in his first three MLB seasons, but it had to have crossed his mind when his batting averages cratered to .197 in 2021 and .130 this season.
DeJong’s reversal came on May 24 when he hit his first home run against Iowa. A few days later, DeJong began a torrid stretch that reminded many of the raw talent that made him look like the franchise’s shortstop for years to come in 2017. A May 31 game in Charlotte -- when DeJong had three hits, a home run and three RBIs -- set the stage for a power-packed June.
Over a 12-game stretch, DeJong muscled eight home runs and compiled 16 hits and 19 RBIs. Not only did he look like a seasoned pro among a league of hopefuls, DeJong caught the attention of Cardinals president John Mozeliak and Marmol. They are delighted to see how the shortstop has embraced his time with the Redbirds.
“Very encouraged with what we’re seeing, and I hope it continues. I hope he puts us in a difficult position of making some difficult decisions,” Mozeliak said. “When we sent him down, we did it with the understanding there’s no timetable. 'Go get comfortable with what you need to be productive and we’re seeing glimpses of that.'"
Added Marmol: “When we put together out our best team, we talked about DeJong being our everyday shortstop. … It’s great the conversation is that he’s doing something extremely productive.”
In addition to homering off former Cardinal Lance Lynn, DeJong has driven the ball the other way with power -- something he did while homering for the Cardinals early on. Less video and scouting analysis, DeJong said, has helped him clear his head and focus strictly on mechanics. Those mechanics got a key adjustment after working on his posture with Memphis’ trainers, DeJong said, and they reminded him of a time when he was a force at the plate.
“I’m sitting in my legs and stepping straight and I feel like the body position stuff came from the weight-room people and I feel like I had an epiphany,” DeJong said. “A lot of that matched up to my video from 2017 when I first came up [to the Cardinals].”
In recent weeks, DeJong has played with Cardinals teammates Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Jack Flaherty while they were rehabing injuries. As much as he enjoyed hitting behind O’Neill and playing defense behind Flaherty again, it was slightly painful to see them promoted to St. Louis. He hopes his return to the Cardinals is coming soon.
“It’s great to see those guys and be on the field with them again and it gives me a boost,” he said. “It reminded me of where I’m trying to be.
“We have a good team [in St. Louis] with or without me, so it’s hard to think about when I’ll be back,” he added. “I’m focusing on being great here. Whenever I get the call, I’ll feel good about it because what I’m doing here will translate. I want to remain confident and know eventually things will work out.”