CINCINNATI — Cardinals skipper Oliver Marmol made it clear before Sunday’s game at Great American Ball Park that Paul DeJong is still his regular shortstop. This pronouncement came as DeJong was getting the first of two scheduled days off to allow DeJong to rediscover his groove at the plate.
“I would say it’s too early to call it a competition,” Marmol said. “Paulie will have the next two days off and be working with our hitting guys, [specifically] on a couple of things. He won’t play today and he won’t play [Monday] against [Max] Scherzer, and he’ll be ready against [Chris] Bassitt [Tuesday].”
The 28-year-old is stuck in an 0-for-11 slump and finished the road trip with just two hits in 21 at-bats.
“Just sometimes I try to get in [the batter’s box] and I get too relaxed and my setup is slightly off and I’m a little uphill and I’m just missing one pitch that I should be putting in play hard and it would be a totally different discussion,” DeJong said. “But I’m just going to keep going up there, trying to swing at good pitches, and eventually I’ll make good contact.
“I think it’s more about the angles. When I’m just trying to get in there relaxed, they seem to be a little uphill and kind of missing under pitches. So, I’m going to get in [the batter’s box] with a little more of a good setup, and I think it’ll just lead into all of the other things I’ve been working on.”
There’s an old expression in sports that confidence comes from demonstrated ability. DeJong has more than proven he can be a powerful threat in the lineup as a starting shortstop, with 91 homers in his career as a shortstop. Add to that 25-plus doubles in each of his first three Major League seasons (2017-19) — he’s just the second Cardinal and fifth shortstop in MLB history to reach that mark.
“If you look at [Saturday], I think his strike zone is as good as we’ve seen it, as far as him laying off that slider low and away,” Marmol said. “He’s not chasing in. He’s doing a good job in the strike zone. Like [Saturday], he fouled several pitches off where it’s one click away where you can’t miss that. And when he’s going well, he doesn’t miss it. So, it’s getting him to that point.”
This year, it’s been a different story. In 12 games, DeJong is slashing just .139/.262/.278.
What’s particularly curious is the shortstop showed zero signs of a prolonged slump to start the season after batting .435 (10-for-23) with two home runs in Grapefruit League play.
“Yeah, things can drift a little bit at times,” DeJong said Sunday. “A few games go by, and here we are.”
“It’s the nature of the sport,” Marmol said. “That’s the business. Does he have the mentality to handle it? Yes. And we’re about to find out.”
Shortstop Edmundo Sosa, who started in the series opener Friday, got the call at short again Sunday and will start on Monday against Scherzer and the Mets at Busch Stadium.