Chase De Jong is likely the latest in a string of constant call ups and send downs the Mariners have been using this season, trying to keep their bullpen fresh.
MINNEAPOLIS — The curse of the successful long reliever has likely earned Chase De Jong another trip back to Class AAA Tacoma.
It’s an undeserved but realistic fate he and several teammates have dealt with this season. It’s why he was in the big leagues and at Target Field.
Called up to the Mariners from Class AAA Tacoma on Wednesday to replace Casey Lawrence, who had pitched 32/3 innings on Tuesday in the long-relief role, De Jong threw four solid shutout innings, allowing just one hit with two walks and two strikeouts in the Mariners’ 6-2 loss to the Twins on Thursday.
“I thought Chase did a great job,” manager Scott Servais said. “He comes in and gives us four zeros and saves our bullpen a little bit. Those guys in that long-relief role have done a great job all year. They’ve stepped in and allowed this thing to keep moving forward, even when he have a rough day.”
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If the Mariners follow the same pattern of the past six weeks, De Jong will be heading back to the Rainiers and a fresh arm will be recalled. It’s something he’s aware of, but not openly angry about.
“That’s my job right now,” De Jong said. “I don’t make that decision. My job is to go out there and throw the ball as well as I can and keep the team in the game. What I did is going to help the bullpen going into Texas. If I get to be there, I’m going to be ecstatic.”
But the expectation is that the Mariners will bring in a fresh arm, particularly with the Rainiers playing in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday. They could have a pitcher in Dallas by Thursday evening.
When De Jong was recalled, manager Scott Servais admitted it wasn’t how he expected to handle the bullpen, using a rotating group of long relievers.
“It’s not ideal,” Servais said Wednesday. “It’s not the way I particularly like to do it. But I think about a month or six weeks ago, we realized the situation we were in and that it was the best way to handle it. Unfortunately, it’s not really their fault. It’s the starter that has the bad outing, and the long guy has to wear it, and oftentimes he’s wearing it with a plane ticket back to Triple A.”
If De Jong is optioned, he’ll head back knowing that he’s building confidence in himself and trust with the big-league staff in his ability to get outs.
“Any time I can get more experience it’s going to add to that comfort level,” he said. “Any chance I can to be up here, I want to be up here and I want to help. This year I need to be versatile. I need to be available when this team needs me.”
With each availability, the game slows down for De Jong.
“It’s definitely becoming normalized,” he said. “It’s becoming my job and not this big, intimidating thing. I’m definitely feeling more comfortable up here, which is great.”
De Jong’s probable replacement had yet to be determined right after the game. There are only a handful of options given the rules on minor-league options and who has thrown recently. Lefty Dillon Overton is scheduled to start on Friday, so he could be an option, or right-hander Ryne Harper, who isn’t a long reliever but is on the 40-man roster.
• Shortstop Jean Segura (high ankle sprain) will undergo a strenuous workout Friday in Texas, which includes running the bases. There was some hope that Segura might be ready to play in the series vs. the Rangers, but Servais admitted that his return from the disabled list is likely to happen in the Tigers series that starts the next homestand.
• Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation) was outstanding in his first rehab start with Class A Modesto, pitching four scoreless innings and allowing one hit with four strikeouts. Iwakuma is slated to make another rehab start next week with Class AAA Tacoma before returning to the rotation.