(Busch Stadium) The time has arrived for St. Louis Cardinals rookie infielder Paul DeJong to set some new goals for at the plate.
“Yeah, that was what I was looking for to start the year,” shared DeJong after hitting his 17th home run of the season in tonight’s 6-5 win over Atlanta. Combined with his 13 home runs hit in Memphis (AAA), he has now achieved 30 bombs for the season.
“Now that I hit it, it’s on to the next one,” DeJong continued. “I don’t really have a particular number. But last year it was 20, this year it was 30 and we’ll just keep going.”
And the going has been more fun of late as the Cardinals have won a season-high eight games in a row. It presents a stark contrast to what DeJong arrived to as the team lost 13 of his first 16 games when he was called up the end of May.
“Yeah, this is what we all play for,” said DeJong. “That’s kind of what I expected going into it–that getting to the big leagues it would be about winning, In the minor leagues, you don’t really feel that as much. But it’s exciting to have these games come down to the wire and try to get wins and look up at the standings and we’re right in it.”
So what’s been the biggest lesson the rookie has observed from the losing and winning streaks?
“It’s just about trusting in your preparation, really,” shared DeJong. “We’ve got a lot of good players on this team. I think we were a little hazy with our goals and hazy with the team unity, lately it seems like we’ve been playing for each other and really picking each other up whenever we get the chance in the game.”
“The veteran leadership of guys that won a World Series, gone through the ropes, played in the playoffs, all those things–they’re kind of stepping up now. You can see their performances going up and everyone else’s is driving up as well.”
After a 1-18 stretch (7/28-8/2) at the plate, DeJong has turned things around–batting .625 (25-40) with 3 HRs and 9 RBIs since August 4th.
“It’s trying not to be so inconsistent, but these guys are good up here and I’ll have to make my adjustments,” said DeJong. “I’m getting thrown right into the fire, but I think it’s been great for my development. And I think if you just take away a few at-bats here and there, I think the 0-16 doesn’t look like that. A couple of hard hit balls at somebody, there’s always little things. Really, it’s just about coming to the park everyday with a fresh, clean slate, trying to help the team win every day.”
And with the success at the plate, DeJong has found himself moved up in the lineup, batting third 18 times now.
“I was pretty much a three-hole guy my whole life,” shared DeJong, who enjoys the position. “I feel comfortable in there. I think I should be in that spot, I like being in that spot, and I think I can keep producing in the three-hole. I’ve just to get on base more, that’s my goal. Whether it’s getting hits or walks, both those things matter. Really pushing the line, and letting guys hit behind me.
“Dexter hit a grand slam the other night when I got a walk in front of him. Stuff like that changes the game, so really just focusing every day on–the three-hole stuff is fun to think about, but really it’s only the 1st inning. The rest of the game it depends on how the game’s going. To start off the game, I like getting the at-bat in the 1st inning with a chance to impact the game.”
Since his recall on June 15th, DeJong’s 16 home runs are the second-most in MLB, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton (24).
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports