DURHAM, N.C.—Rays No. 2 prospect Jose De Leon left the mound at Durham Bulls Athletic Park Thursday night accompanied by a trainer. All things considered, however, the outcome could have been much worse. The righthander, traded from the Dodgers this offseason for second baseman Logan Forsythe, was diagnosed with a mild right lat strain.
De Leon, 24, felt soreness in the affected area on the final few pitches of his third inning, then called for the trainer as he was warming up for the fourth. The decision to do so, he said, was difficult.
“I wanted to (come out) instead of jeopardizing something when I went out there and it getting even worse,” he said. “It was the first time ever that I had the guts to call the trainer. Usually, you just go out there and try to fight through it, but I didn’t want to aggravate it.”
De Leon, whom the Dodgers drafted out of Southern in the 24th round in 2013, has had injury trouble recently. He missed five weeks last season with shoulder soreness before rebounding sufficiently enough to make his major league debut in August. He opened this season on the minor league disabled list with a strain of the flexor tendon in his right forearm and was brought back slowly before making his season debut on May 11 with the first of two rehab games with high Class A Charlotte.
He then moved to Durham for one start, then made a 2.2-inning cameo in the majors before coming back to Durham for his last two starts. On Thursday, De Leon sat between 86-88 mph with his fastball in the early going before settling in at 88-92 in the next two innings. That velocity is a step down from the 90-94 mph fastball range, with peaks at the mid-90s, he’d shown with the Dodgers.
The injury is disappointing for De Leon, but he knows he made the right call when he summoned the trainer.
“You’re playing baseball. Something’s going to hurt every time you go out there,” he said. “You’re never going to find someone who says they’re feeling 100 percent every single day. Sometimes you just fight through it, like I said, but today I thought it was a smarter move to prevent (further injury).”