HOUSTON – Coming to a local golf course near you soon is new Twins righthander Chase De Jong.
De Jong is from a family of avid golfers, about to marry into a family of even more avid golfers and estimates his handicap at about a six.
“I’m also a baseball player,” said De Jong, called up Tuesday by the Twins after Class AAA Rochester’s season ended.
Sure, sure. But let’s run with this golf thing for a minute.
In December, De Jong (pronounced De Young) will marry Chrissy Langer near his home in Long Beach, Calif. That name should ring a bell. Not because she played collegiately at Florida Atlantic, but because she’s the daughter of former PGA great and current Champions Tour stalwart Bernhard Langer.
Chase’s older brother, Blake, by the way, is married to the daughter of 1996 U.S. Open champion Steve Jones.
So what was it like meeting Mr. Langer for the first time?
“I remember the first time I went to their house,” De Jong said. “We played all kinds of games. Golf. Ping-Pong. Tennis. And cards. I got my butt kicked in everything. Everything. I’m telling you, that family is the most competitive family ever.
“Finally, before I was going to go to the airport, I said, ‘You guys want to go shoot hoops?’ I won knockout. That was fun. I finally left with some dignity.”
De Jong said he used to play as many as 40 rounds of golf a year. He was drafted by Toronto in the second round in 2012 and spent time in the Dodgers and Mariners organizations before landing with the Twins on July 31 as part of the Brian Dozier trade. So he knows courses on the spring training circuit in Florida and Arizona. As he’s moved up the minor league chain, he’s reduced his tee times to about 20 rounds.
De Jong hasn’t played in Minnesota, but he’s aware of its reputation for fine golf courses. He said Chrissy has caddied for her father at the 3M Championship in Blaine.
“I would love to get on at Hazeltine,” De Jong said. “I like playing golf, just about everywhere I go.”
De Jong had been known as a sinkerballer in his stops with the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Mariners. He actually was called up by the Mariners for seven games (four starts) last season in an emergency situation, going 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA.
But once he arrived with the Twins, he was told by Jeremy Zoll, the Twins’ director of minor league operations and senior analyst Josh Kalk that his sinkerball had become, to use a golf term, something of a handicap.
“They showed me that the two-seamer that I threw was doing me more harm that it was doing me good,” De Jong said. “They proved it with the data. It was getting hit very hard and wasn’t getting the results as much as I thought it was.”
De Jong bought into the research and has worked on throwing his other pitches, using all quadrants of the strike zone. Over his past six outings at Rochester, De Jong has posted a 2.27 ERA.
“I think my 89-92 (miles-per-hour fastball) plays a little bit harder because of the ability I have to spin the ball,” De Jong said, “and I can use the top of the zone.”
Now De Jong will get a chance to see if his new style of pitching will work in the majors. He could make his Twins debut on Sunday against the Royals.
He’s been promoted, just in time for the fall golf season, but first the Twins need him for a few innings.
“With De Jong, we’re trying to mix him into different looks,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “whether we piggyback him with someone is a real possibility, possibly [Zack] Littell somewhere along the way as we slot him in there somewhere.”