Back On Track

Dodgers' De Jesus puts summer of his discontent behind him





LOS ANGELES—Last summer, Ivan De Jesus Jr. says, was the most difficult of his life.

"All my teammates, they were playing in the big leagues or they were doing what I love, playing baseball. And I was lying in bed, barely could move. It was tough for me watching the TV, watching baseball games," he said in a whisper.

"I was crying a lot when I watched."

Excuse me, but did you say you were crying or praying?

"Both," he answered, with a big laugh.

That De Jesus can laugh about it now is a good sign, a sign that his journey to the big leagues has simply been delayed, not derailed.

A second-round pick in the 2005 draft out of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, De Jesus was the Dodgers minor league player of the year in 2008. And he followed that up with a solid winter in the Puerto Rican League.

Then early in spring training he broke his left tibia in a home-plate collision, sidelining him for the season.

"It was frustrating," he said, standing in a room off Triple-A Albuquerque's spacious clubhouse during the club's final homestand. "But when I started walking, starting doing more stuff, I was pumped. I was like, 'I'm coming back. And I'm coming back strong,'"

He did just that, batting .296/.335/.405 with 70 RBIs in 130 games for Albuquerque, likely earning a long look next spring for a Dodgers team in need of infielders.

That was also the third-best season for an Albuquerque shortstop named Ivan De Jesus since his father, who was enormously popular when he played in New Mexico in the mid 1970s, hit .298 and .304 in his two full seasons in the Pacific Coast League.

At 23, the younger De Jesus is hardly a finished product. His 81 strikeouts (versus 32 walks) are excessive for a guy with just seven homers. And he hit 91 points higher at home than on the road.

"He feels comfortable here," Albuquerque hitting coach John Moses said. "When he's at home, he's with his wife and gets good home-cooked meals."

De Jesus hopes she'll be cooking those meals in Los Angeles next season.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

• It was a good season for the Dodgers minor league system. Five of L.A.'s seven affiliates had winning seasons, with low Class A Great Lakes advancing to the semifinals of the Midwest League playoffs and Rookie-level Odgen reaching the finals of the Pioneer League playoffs. Overall, the Dodgers' seven minor league teams went 348-345.

• With Jake Lemmerman (.363), Leon Landry (.349) and Chris Henderson (.341) leading seven players with averages of .302 or better, Odgen ran away with the Pioneer League batting race, hitting .298 as a team. The Raptors also led the league in runs, averaging more than 6.5 a game.