Healthy Jung blasts off for two jacks at Triple-A

August 17th, 2022

Six months ago, Josh Jung wasn't sure if he was going to be on a baseball field this season. MLB's No. 39 overall prospect suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder during an offseason workout in February.

On Tuesday, playing in his sixth game of the year with the Express, the top-ranked Rangers prospect appeared to be in midseason form as he mashed a pair of home runs as part of a three-knock night with six RBIs to power Triple-A Round Rock's 9-4 victory over El Paso at the Dell Diamond.

"It's just crazy. I wasn't even supposed to play this year. Then it went to, maybe I can just DH. Then I'm out there in the field again. I'm just so happy to be playing baseball again because at the beginning of rehab, with all the unknowns, to being in this position I'm at now is just a blessing and I'm just super grateful to be here," Jung said. "I'm honestly just pretty loose right now. I don't have any expectations for myself, just go out there and play ball, just see the ball and hit it. Coming back from shoulder surgery, you're really not sure how it's going to affect you.

"I had six months to prepare for this moment, but there are just so many unknowns and you don't know how you're going to come out of it. So, hats off to the rehab crew and strength coaches in Arizona to get me back to the position I'm in to play again."

After a successful surgery to repair the tear in his shoulder in late February, Jung began a rehab assignment with the Arizona Complex League Rangers on July 28. After an eight-game rehab assignment at the Rookie-level where the 24-year-old posted a .240/.345/.600 with three dingers, three walks, five RBIs and four runs scored, Jung rejoined the Express on Aug. 9.

"I was just 100 percent itching to play baseball again at that point [in the ACL]," Jung said. "Going from the cages to game action feels good, but there was still a lot of inconsistency with how I was feeling then from one at-bat to the next. It's just all coming together right now which is great."

In his first game back at the Triple-A level since the conclusion of the 2021 season, the Texas Tech product crushed a go-ahead three-run jack late in the contest.

Against the Chihuahuas, Jung continued to display his progress with one of the best games of his pro career. With one out in the opening frame, the Texas Tech product turned around an 0-2 pitch from right-hander Jesse Scholtens and sent it right back up the middle for a single.

In the following inning, Jung stepped in against Scholtens again, this time with two on and two out, and again fell behind 0-2. After leveling the count to 2-2, the 2019 No. 8 overall Draft selection barreled up a high fastball and sent it 421 feet to center at 106 mph.

"I'm just staying within myself. Not trying to do too much," Jung said. "That’s what's working for me right now. The belief that I'm just gonna go up there and stay above the baseball and swing down on it and whatever happens, happens."

It was nearly déjà vu in the sixth, as Jung stepped to the plate again with two on and two outs, this time against lefty Drew Pomeranz. After fouling off four pitches, Jung had battled to a 2-2 count again and saw another high heater on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. He launched it 435 feet at 106.6 mph for his second three-run tater of the game.

"I'm just trying to relish in this moment and keep going," Jung said. "Keep grinding, sticking with my progressions, show I'm healthy, stay healthy and just keep going. That's my main goal."

In his final at-bat of the game, Jung sent a fly ball to deep center again but it was tracked down and caught a few feet in front of the warning track for the final out of the eighth.

"I got a really slow changeup there, and did my best to stay on it and try to get under it," he said. "But I knew as soon as I hit it that I just missed it."

Since returning to Round Rock, Jung has hit safely in all six of his games with the Express this season. He is 10-for-25 with four home runs, three doubles, 12 RBIs and seven runs scored with a pair of walks and a stolen base.

"When I was in Arizona, I didn't hit the way I wanted to and you get these thoughts creeping in your head and it was really hard to turn that off at the plate," Jung said. "But I'm fortunate right now because I'm going up there with some peace and silence, and I think that's because of the recent success. Every game I'm gaining a little bit more confidence."