When the Chicago Cubs signed David DeJesus to a two-year, $10 million deal ($4.25M in each of the next two years, plus a $1.5 million buyout on a $6.5 million club option in 2014), they hoped his 2011 season was more of an aberration than the start of a decline. A .289/.360/.427 hitter to that point in his career, DeJesus struggled in his first year in Oakland, hitting just .240/.323/.376. Bounce-back candidates were the order of the Winter, and DeJesus at least satisfied the “coming off a down year” part.
What about the actual “bouncing back” part? DeJesus had an unusually low BABIP last year (.274, after a career at .316), so mere luck and the law of averages could do some of the bouncing for him. But could the Cubs actually help DeJesus bounce back? Might the Cubs have noticed something correctable in DeJesus’s performance at the plate?
After a rough Spring Training – he’s hitting a woeful .207/.313/.293 this Spring – DeJesus worked with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, specifically to identify any mechanical issues in his approach and swing. They may have had success. From the Sun-Times:
‘‘It’s pretty cool, especially being from there,’’ said DeJesus [of Opening Day at Wrigley Field], a native New Yorker who has made Wheaton his adopted hometown through his wife, Kim. ‘‘My mom and dad are flying out. My wife’s parents will be there. My son will be there. It’s going to be a really cool Opening Day.’’
Especially if the simple problem with his mechanics that he and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo identified in the last week turns his .207 spring batting average — and .240 season in 2011 — on its head.
‘‘It could actually be a huge impact,’’ said manager Dale Sveum, who’s keeping the mysterious solution in-house. ‘‘Sometimes it’s a process for people, sometimes you look too deep into things, especially veteran players in spring training. It’s just a wait-and-see-what-happens during the season.’’
DeJesus, an eight-year veteran, said it has to do with ‘‘timing.’’ He also said it’s coming around, as evidenced by a two-hit game Sunday that included a line drive to right and a drag bunt for a hit. DeJesus expected to be in the lineup Tuesday for a final tuneup before the opener Thursday.
We’ll just have to wonder what the issue was, and what correction was applied. Hopefully, even if we can’t see the correction, we’ll see it in the results this year. The Cubs are counting on DeJesus to be the team’s leadoff hitter (at least against righties) this year, so a bounce back from him could be even more important than that of a handful of other bounce-back candidates on the team.
An additional piece of the bounce-back story working in DeJesus’s favor? He says his thumb – in which a torn tendon ended his 2010 season, and probably impacted his 2011 season - has felt great all Spring.