Preps Talk

DeJesus reflects on first season in Chicago


DeJesus reflects on first season in Chicago

When Theo Epstein and the rebuilt front office entered free agency last November, David DeJesus was exactly the type of player they were targeting.

The veteran outfielder didn't earn a 100 million contract, but he brought solid defense, an ability to work the count and a professional approach to the 2012 Cubs.

DeJesus's deal -- 4.25 million a year for two seasons with a 6.5 million option or a 1.5 million buyout -- has provided the framework for free agents during Epstein's second offseason.

The Cubs don't plan on making a splash this winter and kicked free agency off with a one-year deal worth 5.5 million (with 1.5 million in incentives) with right-handed pitcher Scott Baker Tuesday morning.

Baker began his career in the American League Central, where DeJesus played for the Royals from 2003-10.

"He's a quality guy," DeJesus said before appearing on Chicago Tribune Live Wednesday evening. "I faced him a lot in Minnesota. He's one of those guys that's gonna throw strikes and be able to move the ball around the plate. I'm excited to see what he does."

DeJesus didn't exactly "own" Baker over the years, but he collected seven hits in 24 at-bats against Baker with three extra-base hits and a pair of walks.

DeJesus entered free agency last season coming off his worst year in the big leagues, hitting just .240 in 506 plate appearances. He turned things around in 2012, boasting a .350 on-base percentage while playing all three outfield spots and spending most of the year in the leadoff spot in the lineup.

But the Cubs still endured their first 100-loss season since 1966 and the roster was turned upside down as Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer determined which players were pieces for the future.

Still, DeJesus, who has a house in Wheaton, Ill., enjoyed his first season in Chicago.

"It's been awesome being able to live in my offseason home," he said. "It's great to call this my home town. The fans have been great. We had a tough year on the ball field, but everything else has been great.

"I've been through a couple 100-loss seasons already, but we're professionals. We have to take every game for what it is. You don't want to be a part of a season like that, but we were and we're just going to keep moving forward and not looking back."

By the end of the season, the Cubs' roster featured a heap of players getting their first taste of major-league action and DeJesus -- who will turn 33 next month -- said he tried to lead by example.

"I just try to be the guy so the young players understand that he's going to prepare himself the same every day," DeJesus said. "It doesn't matter if we're losing on the field. It doesn't matter if we're super high or super low. Our job is to go out there and be professionals. Prepare ourselves mentally and physically everyday for the next day."

Brett Jackson entered 2012 as the Cubs' top outfield prospect and made his MLB debut late in the season, striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats.

"He has to do a little work in the offseason," DeJesus said. "I talked to him a lot. He just has to get his confidence up and he has so many tools out there. I think he's going to be a good player."

DeJesus knows the Cubs are still a ways off from contention, but with almost the entire winter left, the 10-year veteran is staying positive.

"I'm hoping Theo does his thing," he said. "We need some pitching. Everybody knows that. Guys that are going to throw strikes and can eat up innings. That's really what our focus should be right now."

Power Rankings: #9 - Marist

Power Rankings: #9 - Marist preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Marist

Head coach: Ron Dawczak

Assistant coaches: Matt Shalvis (OC), Pete Gabel (DC), Jim Looney (OL), Joe Watson (OL), Chris Bohanek (WRs), Tony Turek (DL), Rich Watson (DL), Matt Jedrey (LBs) and Brendan Garrett (DBs)

How they fared in 2017: 11-1 (7-0 East Suburban Catholic Conference). Marist made the 8A state playoff field, defeated Oak Park-River Forest and Curie then lost to Loyola Academy in quarterfinal round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Brother Rice
Sept. 1 vs Mishawaka Indiana
Sept 7 @ Niles Notre Dame
Sept. 14 vs St. Viator
Sept. 21 vs Joliet Catholic Academy
Sept. 28 @ Marian Catholic
Oct. 5 @ Nazareth Academy
Oct. 12 vs Marian Central Catholic
Oct. 19 @ Benet Academy

Biggest storyline: Can the Redhawks replace a handful of key starters from last season and keep moving forward in Class 8A?

Names to watch this season: QB Mike Markett and WR Jadon Thompson

Biggest holes to fill: The Redhawks will look to reload in a few key spots this summer, especially up front on the defensive line with the graduation losses of DT Elijah Teague (Minnesota) and DL Gavin McCabe (Indiana). 

EDGY's Early Take: The Redhawks once again look to be loaded on the offense side of the football for the 2018 season. Senior QB Mike Markett is back after a strong 2017 junior campaign and Markett has multiple weapons including highly recruited junior WR Jadon Thompson along with senior WR Billy Skalitzky and senior WR Denny Hogan. While the Redhawks' defense will be missing a few headliners from last season, this is still a unit with seven returning starters back this fall. Keep an eye on senior OLB Kendric Nowling (Eastern Michigan) for the Redhawks this season.

A great escape and a positive 'learning moment' for Lucas Giolito

A great escape and a positive 'learning moment' for Lucas Giolito

So often in this rebuilding season, Rick Renteria has talked of "learning moments," and as is evident from the team's win-loss numbers and many other statistics, those "learning moments" have largely ended in negative results.

It's not to say the lessons haven't been valuable ones, and growing pains now could lead to big-time success down the road, when the White Sox shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

But Tuesday night in Detroit, one young player, a significant piece of the team's long-term plans, succeeded in such a moment. And it looked like a step forward for a guy who's called himself one of the most inconsistent pitchers in baseball this season.

Lucas Giolito looked like he was heading for another disappointing outing early, when he relinquished a three-run lead in the first inning, allowing three runs that grew his first-inning ERA on the season to 8.63. But he settled down nicely from there, allowing just two base runners over the next four innings and allowing the White Sox to jump back ahead, which they did, leading 6-3 by the time Giolito's biggest challenge came around.

The Tigers loaded the bases to start the bottom of the sixth, putting three on with nobody out for Giolito, who has been susceptible to the big inning often this season, including in his previous start, when he gave up six runs in the second inning against the New York Yankees.

Renteria could've pulled the plug there and brought in a fresh reliever to try and limit the damage and keep his team's three-run lead alive. Instead, he allowed Giolito to stay in — another example of certain developmental things being more important than wins and losses this season — and the right-hander rewarded him. Giolito got a shallow flyball, a strikeout and a popup on the infield to end the inning with no runs scoring.

Giolito was obviously happy about that, and cameras showed him sharing a smile with Renteria in the dugout.

The White Sox won the game and now have a 6-2 record in Giolito's last eight starts. They're .500 (12-12) in his 24 starts this season, an interesting note, if not a terribly meaningful one, considering the team's overall record is 33 games below the .500 mark.

These "learning moments" have defined this developmental season on the South Side, and often they've come with the caveat of growing pains and the promise of a better tomorrow, despite a somewhat painful present.

This moment, though, came with a very visible sign of things moving in the right direction for Giolito. It doesn't mean Giolito will take off from here. But it's a good sign and something the White Sox have to be happy about as Giolito continues to develop at the major league level.