The Dodgers look for their first ever regular season series win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, and what better way to start Fathers Day than with a look at one of several sons of former major leaguers on the Dodgers. Ivan De Jesus has had a long road back to the Dodgers, and has been one of the many unsung contributors to the team this season.
De Jesus missed seven weeks with a strained oblique muscle suffered during spring training, and after he was back playing again the Dodgers promoted 27-year old utility man Elian Herrera over him, even though Herrera wasn't on the 40-man roster at the time. This followed two consecutive seasons of De Jesus not getting recalled in September despite being on the 40-man roster.
"That's in the past. You learn from your mistakes. It's a new year. I'm a grown man now," De Jesus said. "It's a new opportunity for me, and I'm just having fun here with these guys."
The opportunity for De Jesus came on May 19, one day after second baseman Mark Ellis badly injured his left leg in a collision at second base. He has hit .310/.344/.414 in limited duty, and has outlasted Jerry Sands, Scott Van Slyke, and Alex Castellanos, all of whom were optioned back to Triple A. It's not a perfect comparison, as those three players were outfielders while De Jesus is an infielder, and the trio stood to benefit from regular playing time, but De Jesus has also performed well at this level while the others struggled in their reserve roles.
"He's been playing longer than those guys. He's more established in who he is and what kind of hitter he is," said manager Don Mattingly. "He's always had a real good understanding of the strike zone. Hitting's always been the easiest part, it seems like."
De Jesus has started just four times in the 27 games he has been with the Dodgers, but he has been used as a pinch-hitter 14 times, a new role for the 25-year old.
"I'm used to playing everyday, having my rhythm. It's something new for me for my career. I work hard, but I just have to do a little bit extra," De Jesus said.
De Jesus said he hits in the batting cage two to three times per game in preparation for possibly pinch hitting each night. Mattingly has had De Jesus pick the brains of hitting coach Dave Hansen and coach Manny Mota, two of the most prolific pinch hitters in baseball history, to try and find the correct approach.
"It's a hard job, because you don't play enough to stay sharp," Mattingly said. "The hard part is, how much can hitting in BP help you in the game? At a certain point you need some timing, and that's the battle right there."
De Jesus tied the game as a pinch hitter with a sacrifice fly in Arizona on May 22, then hit a two-out, two-run double in the ninth inning to beat the Diamondbacks 8-7. He had an RBI single as a pinch hitter on Friday night during the Dodgers' five-run rally in the sixth inning against the White Sox. Overall as a pinch hitter, De Jesus is 3-for-12 with a walk and a sacrifice fly.
Since getting recalled on May 19, De Jesus has been used as a pinch hitter more than twice as often as anyone else on the roster.
"It's good having a manager with confidence in you. It takes a little bit of pressure off. It's good to have someone who supports you and puts in those situations," De Jesus said. "Thank God that I'm doing good right now so far. I just have to keep working and working and win more games."
Today's Pitching Matchup
Chris Capuano has been struggling so far in June for the Dodgers, allowing 13 runs (10 earned) in 15 1/3 innings, with nine walks and 10 strikeouts in three starts. He has not lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings in any of the three starts this month. After his last start, a no-decision on Monday against the Angels, Capuano said he made a mechanical adjustment during the final two innings and was happier with the way he threw the ball after that. We'll see if that carries over into his start on Sunday.
Jose Quintana is a 23-year old rookie who has made four starts and two relief appearances for the White Sox, and hasn't allowed more than two runs in any single outing. He has only struck out 14 of the 107 batters he has faced this season, in 27 1/3 innings, but he has also only walked six, and has a 1.98 ERA.
Paul Konerko sits for Chicago in the series finale.
Game Time: 1:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket