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VOL. 132 | NO. 108 | Wednesday, May 31, 2017

DeJong Makes Presence Felt With Cardinals on Day 1

By Don Wade

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Paul DeJong was putting up impressive numbers for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds: .294 batting average, 11 home runs and 31 RBIs. But those stats quickly became a mere footnote when DeJong homered in his first big-league at-bat with the St. Louis Cardinals last Sunday at Colorado.

Infielder Paul DeJong homered in his first big-league at-bat with the St. Louis Cardinals last Sunday. He was hitting .294 with 11 home runs for the Memphis Redbirds when he was called up. (Memphis Redbirds)

DeJong appeared as a pinch-hitter in an 8-4 loss, taking Rockies closer Greg Holland deep. DeJong had just been called up and arrived at the ballpark during the game.

“I was pretty amped,” he told reporters afterward, his first swing in the majors resulting in a home run and becoming the ninth Cardinal to homer in his big-league first at-bat. “I couldn’t feel my legs.”

DeJong was playing shortstop at Memphis but was called up after second baseman Kolten Wong went on the disabled list. 

“I’m so proud of him,” said Memphis manager Stubby Clapp. “Good kid, works hard, made adjustments from the first day of spring training. Always doing good things. It was a big deal for him to learn how to play shortstop here. And to make adjustments and learn how they’re pitching him.”

Clapp believes DeJong, who was a fourth-round draft pick out of Illinois State in 2015, can be more than a spare part in the majors. 

“My personal opinion is I don’t see him as a utility guy,” Clapp said. “I see him as a utility guy like, yeah, he can do it. But I think he’d be a real good second baseman. He made great adjustments at shortstop with his footwork. That’s a fun athlete to see.”

First baseman Luke Voit is perhaps the most dangerous hitter in the Redbirds lineup now that DeJong is gone. Voit, through games of May 29, was batting .322 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs.

A 22nd-round pick by the Cardinals in 2013, he is in his first year at Triple-A after hitting 19 homers with a .297 batting average in 2016 at Double-A Springfield.

As this season has gone on, pitchers have been more careful with him even though he has had productive bats behind him in the lineup.

“Yeah, especially hitting in the three hole,” he said. “So I have to kind of pick my pitches, where I want to attack and be more aggressive in certain situations, and when to lay back and take my walks when I need to take them. That’s on me.”

Biggest temptation: becoming overly aggressive, which he does not want to do. Voit was in a 0-for-14 slide going to into the game on Tuesday, May 30.

“Because then you start getting yourself out,” Voit said, “instead of swinging at your pitch, you’re swinging at their pitch.”

Bird Chirps

• Though May 29, the Redbirds already had set a franchise record for wins in May with 19.

• Memphis entered its Tuesday, May 30 game, with a 32-20 record. The Redbirds did not win their 32nd game last season until June 19.

• Other trends before Tuesday’s game: catcher and top prospect Carson Kelly had hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games (.403) and had 10 multi-hit games; infielder Breyvic Velera was the fourth-toughest player to strike out in the Pacific Coast League (11.57 plate appearances per strikeout); the Redbirds had hit 58 home runs, fourth-most in the 16-team PCL; Memphis ranked 10th in average attendance, at 5,564 per game (they averaged 4,704 last year, 15th in the league).

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