Newly acquired De Jong eager to pitch for Mariners

Texas League Pitcher of the Year expected to start season at Triple-A

Newly acquired De Jong eager to pitch for Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As a guy who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and was thrilled two years ago to get traded from the Blue Jays to his hometown Dodgers, Chase De Jong admitted his first reaction to the news of him being dealt to the Mariners on Wednesday wasn't joyous.

But the 23-year-old realized quickly, upon talking to Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, that there were huge positives in heading to the Pacific Northwest.

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"Being open and honest, being a kid from Southern California, it did sting a little bit," De Jong said upon arriving at Mariners camp Thursday. "But that hurt was very short-lived, knowing the opportunity here is much more prevalent. I think I'll be able to help this team out.

"My strong thing is I can cover innings, and that's something I think this staff could use. I know that's valuable what I'm bringing to the table, so I'm looking forward to just being ready when the opportunity presents itself."

Dipoto feels De Jong was the best hurler in the Double-A ranks last year for Tulsa, where he was named Texas League Pitcher of the Year, posting a 14-5 record, 2.86 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Dipoto said the right-hander will start the season at Triple-A Tacoma and join a growing pool of young arms who could soon help the Mariners.

De Jong already has been ranked Seattle's No. 15 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, and Dipoto believes his strike-throwing ability and multiple-pitch attack make him a perfect fit for the Mariners.

"He's a player we tried to acquire multiple times dating back to last July, so this is a culmination of hard work in trying to drag him in," Dipoto said. "I guess the Dodgers' embarrassment of riches worked in our favor."

Seattle gave up two promising Minor Leaguers of its own in shortstop Drew Jackson and right-hander Aneurys Zabala, but gained back a player who is closer to Major League-ready.

"I'm really excited just looking at the stat line," manager Scott Servais said. "But I did have an opportunity to sit down and talk with him this morning and was probably more impressed with the 10-minute conversation than I was with the stat line. And the stat line is very good. Where he's at in his career age-wise, it lines up really nice with that pocket of young pitching we've got that all have a chance to start."

De Jong said he turned down the opportunity to pitch for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, wanting to focus on his pro career in his first season on a 40-man roster with the Dodgers. Now he'll do the same with a team he's just meeting.

"Everybody is really nice here," he said. "I've done this once before. I got traded in the middle of '15 from Toronto to the Dodgers, so meeting new faces and things, it did feel a little like that. But it was a little more of a high-caliber team, walking into a big league clubhouse than walking into a high-A team.

"Seeing Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez … it's a star-studded team. There are a lot of really good arms and really good bats and just phenomenal baseball players in this locker room, and I'm excited to be a part of this now."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.