Somehow, De Jong was able to avoid potential catastrophe and look pretty slick at the same time. He stuck out his glove and snared the ball for the third out of the inning, then practically sprinted off the mound and into the dugout, having dodged what he said was the hardest-hit comebacker of his career.
"I saw him swing," said De Jong, who is still getting acclimated with the Mariners after coming over in a trade with the Dodgers on March 1. "I saw ball hit barrel. After that it was just kind of moving my head out of the way and then I caught it. I felt it. And then I looked and it was still in my glove and I just walked right off after that.
"I was like, 'Even if it wasn't three outs, I'm gonna be done after that.'"
De Jong, who had compiled a 7.20 spring ERA in two appearances, righted himself on Thursday, although hit wasn't easy. He gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits in four innings, including a leadoff home run by Drew Butera in the third. De Jong struck out one and walked one.
"I thought he threw the ball really good. He was aggressive, he had good stuff today, he moved the fastball around in the zone, his curveball was very effective. So a really good outing," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of De Jong.
No problems for Zych
Reliever Tony Zych, who's coming back from biceps tendon transfer surgery, which ended his 2016 season in late August, said he felt great Wednesday when pitching to a live batter (catcher Tuffy Gosewisch) for the first time this spring.
More important, however, was that he felt even better Thursday, the morning after the 20-pitch session in which Zych threw fastballs and sliders.
"I'm surprised at how good I feel," Zych said. "I thought I'd be a little tighter than I was with ratcheting the intensity up, but I feel outstanding today."
Zych said he will have another similar session in a few days and hopes to get in a game not too long after that.