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De Jong makes most of second chance

Young righty tosses 4 scoreless innings to keep M's in game
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

OAKLAND -- When last seen in the big leagues, in his first and only previous Major League appearance, Chase De Jong was walking off the mound at Minute Maid Park in Houston with his head hanging after giving up a three-run walk-off homer by George Springer in a gut-punch of a 13-inning loss for the Mariners.

The next day, April 6, De Jong was shipped back to Triple-A Tacoma, having filled his three-day duty while teammate Dillon Overton was on paternity leave for the arrival of his first child. De Jong departed with a tough memory and a 40.50 ERA, the kind of thing you don't want hanging on the back of your baseball card for your own future child to see if you never get another shot in the bigs.

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OAKLAND -- When last seen in the big leagues, in his first and only previous Major League appearance, Chase De Jong was walking off the mound at Minute Maid Park in Houston with his head hanging after giving up a three-run walk-off homer by George Springer in a gut-punch of a 13-inning loss for the Mariners.

The next day, April 6, De Jong was shipped back to Triple-A Tacoma, having filled his three-day duty while teammate Dillon Overton was on paternity leave for the arrival of his first child. De Jong departed with a tough memory and a 40.50 ERA, the kind of thing you don't want hanging on the back of your baseball card for your own future child to see if you never get another shot in the bigs.

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It turned out De Jong didn't have to wait long to erase either the memory or the ERA, as he was recalled Friday to fill in again when Dan Altavilla was sent down and found himself in Saturday's game in Oakland when starter Ariel Miranda struggled early.

De Jong was summoned after Miranda surrendered a leadoff single in the fourth, with the Mariners trailing 4-2. And he immediately went to work, getting out of that inning unscathed despite a one-out walk and proceeding to work through four scoreless frames with just one hit on 51 pitches in Seattle's 4-3 loss.

On a road trip where the Mariners have stumbled to an 0-3 start, De Jong stood out Saturday as a clear highlight and the 23-year-old welcomed the chance to show what he could do after his Astros' loss.

"It feels incredible to have a positive outing to look back on," he said. "I didn't erase Houston. I learned a lot from it. But now I have stuff to learn from this outing also, which is wonderful and something I can be pretty proud of."

De Jong doesn't feature a blazing fastball, throwing in the 90-91 mph range, but he has four effective pitches, induced a lot of fly ball outs and kept the ball in the yard against an A's lineup that took Miranda deep twice in the first and has hit nine homers during a five-game win streak.

"Chase threw the ball outstanding," manager Scott Servais said. "He had been throwing great [in Triple-A Tacoma]. The sour taste he left with us last time from that game in Houston, he said, 'I'm going to learn from this.' And he certainly has.

"He handled himself really good, mixed in all his pitches and was kind of the guy we thought we were getting. That was a real positive for us today, to keep us right in the game there after a shaky start by Miranda."

De Jong, the Mariners' No. 14 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, dropped that ERA to 5.79 and finished with a pair of strikeouts in his final frame. For a kid who'd been pitching Double-A ball a year ago and never pitched out of the bullpen until that Houston game, it was mission accomplished.

"My mentality was just to cover the innings the team needed and save the bullpen from having to come in and clean up my mess," he said. "Pitch to contact and go right after guys because that's what they need out of me. They don't need me trying to punch everybody out and walking guys. They needed me to cover my innings."

De Jong's tenure with the team could be short for now, but if he gets sent back down again, he'll do so with a different frame of mind.

"Any time I can be up here and help out this team, it's a blessing," he said. 

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Chase De Jong