Debuts, returns, the Olympics and contract arbitration are just a few of the interesting stories this month involving Long Beach products in Major League Baseball.
Wilson Bruins fans have been pleasantly surprised to see Chase De Jong and Tommy Nance both pitching in The Show over the last few weeks. The Wilson alums weren’t on MLB rosters to begin the season but have made some great headlines for their respective teams.
De Jong, 27, returned to the MLB with a different teams and only gave up three hits and one run in his first start for the Pittsburgh Pirates late last month. The right-handed pitcher, who was on the Houston Astros postseason roster last year, struck out five and walked two over five innings of work in his return.
“Any time I get to take the mound on a major league mound is a privilege,” De Jong told ESPN. “To be back here is exactly that. I didn’t take it lightly. I really enjoyed being back out there with another team. I just consider myself very blessed to have this opportunity.”
De Jong’s outing last week in Washington is one of the best in his five years as a pro. He worked four innings and only gave one earned run on four hits and two walks against the Nationals. De Jong also struck out five and drove a double into the gap for his first MLB hit.
Nance, 30, made his MLB debut for the Chicago Cubs and has already carved out a spot for himself in the bullpen. The right-hander has only given up six hits and four runs in 16 innings across 16 appearances. Nance has 16 strikeouts and four held leads.
“It was everything I imagined and more,” Nance told MLB. “Going through those doors, and it’s just lights on me. I can hear the fans behind me calling my name, and I’m jogging out to the mound. It was just an unbelievable experience and atmosphere.”
Nance was pitching for an independent league affiliate five years ago when he was picked up by Cubs. Now he’s throwing nasty stuff that includes a 97 MPH slider that breaks more than any other pitcher in the MLB besides Trevor Bauer.
In other news, former Long Beach State Dirtbag Jarren Duran has been named to the Team USA Olympic qualifier roster, and he’s the first Dirtbag to make Team USA since Clayton Andrews two years ago. Duran is trying to be the first Dirtbag since 1992 to make the Olympics since 1992.
Duran is currently the No. 3 prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. The outfielder is hitting .291 with 13 home runs, seven stolen bases and a 1.015 OPS with AAA Worcester.
Speaking of former Dirtbags breaking through, Garrett Hampson is growing a lot during his rookie season with the Colorado Rockies. This month the utility outfielder and second baseman was hitting .333 with a 1.139 OPS against left-handed pitching. That ranked sixth in the National League. Now Hampson is starting to figure out right-handed pitchers but told MLB.com that he does’t obsess over the numbers.
“I don’t really pay attention too much— I never really have, so it’s just not something that I kind of dive into,” Hampson said. “At the end of the year, I’ll see. Maybe if it gets to a point where the coaches feel that they need to bring it up and they can obviously do that. But it’s not something that I spent time really breaking down.”
Lakewood High alum and Seattle Mariners Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford had a great moment last weekend when he hit his first career grand slam and then scored the game-winning run against the Tampa Bay Rays. The grand slam had an exit velocity of 109.1 MPH which is the highest of the season for Crawford.
Crawford, 26, ranks 26th in the league with his .284 batting average this season and could possibly the Mariners All-Star representative.
“That guy needs to be an All-Star,” Seattle starting pitcher Logan Gilbert told MLB.com. “He’s unreal. Best shortstop I’ve probably ever played with.”
Crawford was also able to avoid arbitration this month for his 2021 deal worth $2.05 million, and that bodes well for him getting resigned by Seattle.
“He’s been awesome,” Seattle outfielder Mitch Haniger told MLB.com. “Every night brings energy and you know what you’re going to get out of him. You’re going to get Gold Glove-caliber defense. He’s been swinging the bat really well, swinging at good pitches, hitting the ball hard. From at-bat to at-bat, every time he goes up there, you’re just expecting something loud off his bat. It’s been fun to watch.”
The phenomenal performance on Saturday meant even more for Crawford because it was Juneteenth, and the Mariners were wearing Negro League replica jerseys to pay homage.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those guys who passed down before us, and if they didn’t take all that criticism and hate, we wouldn’t be here,” Crawford told MLB.com. “We’ve got to salute them all the time, and not just one day, I think. We’ve got to do something way more every week to represent and really know where we come from.”
Elsewhere, Bryan Shaw was having having one of the best years of his 11-year career in the Cleveland Indians bullpen, but has scuffled lately. The Dirtbags alum has a 3.26 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 32 appearances.
Evan Longoria’s resurgent season with the San Francisco Giants has been put on pause after a collision in a game two weeks ago. The Dirtbags alum suffered a sprained left shoulder that will keep him sidelined for 4-6 weeks. Longoria led the Giants with a .280 batting average and 45 hits this season. He was second on the team with 30 RBIs.
Matt Duffy hasn’t played for the Chicago Cubs in almost a month due to a lower back strain, but the LBSU product is working his way back. Duffy is close to a rehab assignment after taking batting practice and ground balls last week. The Lakewood High alum is hitting .278 in 90 at bats with the Cubs. This is his first year in Chicago after playing three years each for San Francisco and Tampa Bay.