Ivan DeJesus Jr. had a .321 average for the Dodgers in the Cactus League.… (Jake Roth / US Presswire )
Reporting from Phoenix — When Ivan DeJesus Jr. walked across the Dodgers' clubhouse and reintroduced himself to Tim Redding early this spring, the veteran pitcher said he had to do a double take.
"Oh my God," Redding recalled telling himself. "I'm old."
DeJesus was 12 years old the last time Redding saw him. As the Dodgers broke camp on Sunday, the now-23-year-old DeJesus was on his way to Los Angeles as the probable opening-day second baseman.
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"He's not a kid anymore," Redding said.
Redding and DeJesus shared a clubhouse in 1999, when Redding was a 21-year-old prospect on the Houston Astros' Class-A affiliate in Michigan and DeJesus was the bat boy. DeJesus' father, a former major league shortstop who started his career with the Dodgers, was the hitting instructor.
Infielder Aaron Miles was also on that team.
"I was a bad boy," DeJesus said, laughing.
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He said he used to take gloves from players' lockers. He would tape their socks into bundles that he would throw across the room.
"I know he's got a glove of mine somewhere," Redding said jokingly.
DeJesus recalled how the players once stuffed him in a trash can.
"I think we taped him up a couple of times, too," Miles said.
But DeJesus was also there to work.
"When I was 19 years old, this little guy was taking grounders with me before games," Miles said. "You knew he was going to be a special player."
Drafted by the Dodgers in 2005, DeJesus went into spring training four years later appearing to be on the verge of breaking into the majors. But in a practice game on one of the backfields at Camelback Ranch, he broke his leg. The year was lost.
He recovered to hit .296 in triple-A Albuquerque last season and again appeared to be on his way to earning his first stint in the majors as a September call-up. Again, something got in the way. This time, it was his attitude, which the organization's brain trust found off-putting.
"Everybody makes mistakes," DeJesus said. "I learned from the mistakes I made. Now, I'm a new player."
DeJesus' .321 average in the Cactus League, coupled with an injury to Casey Blake that will force Juan Uribe to move from second base to third, has probably earned him a spot on the team.
"It bodes well for him," Manager Don Mattingly said of the set of circumstances.
DeJesus might be grown up, but he has retained a certain measure of cockiness.
Asked about potentially facing Tim Lincecum and defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants on opening day, DeJesus said, "It's going to be fun to get my first hit with Lincecum on the mound."
Blake will begin playing in minor league games Monday. If he is placed on the disabled list to start the season as expected, the earliest he could be activated would be April 6. … Redding, a fifth starter candidate, was also sent to minor league camp. His schedule has been adjusted to line him up for an April 10 start in San Diego. Using the fifth starter on that day instead of April 12 would allow Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to get an extra day of rest. … The original fifth starter, Jon Garland, will throw a bullpen session Monday, two days after he threw off a mound for the first time since straining a side muscle March 9. He said he thinks he can be ready to pitch by April 10. … Relievers Ramon Troncoso and Travis Schlichting were optioned to the minors.