The Pirates announced they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Chase De Jong to start this afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In a corresponding move, infielder Ildemaro Vargas was designated for assignment. Righty JT Brubaker, meanwhile, will be away from the team temporarily on bereavement leave.
When he takes the mound this afternoon, De Jong will be appearing in the big leagues for the fifth consecutive season. Pitching for the Mariners, Twins and Astros during parts of the 2017-20 seasons, De Jong worked to a 7.12 ERA with poor strikeout and walk numbers (14.2% and 10.6%, respectively) in 15 appearances.
Despite his uninspiring major league resume, De Jong has pitched well since signing a minor league deal with Pittsburgh in January. Over four starts for Triple-A Indianapolis, the 27-year-old has worked to a 3.60 ERA across 20 innings, striking out a very strong 33.7% of opponents while walking an average 9.6%. It’s a small sample to be sure, but De Jong is punching out hitters much more often in 2021 than he has in any other Triple-A campaign, so the front office will give him an opportunity to try to carry over that success to the big leagues.
Vargas loses his roster spot less than two weeks after the Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Cubs. He’s picked up 37 plate appearances between Chicago and Pittsburgh this year and has hit just .239/.272/.368 in parts of five MLB seasons. The Pirates will have a week to trade Vargas or expose him to waivers. Having previously been outrighted in his career, the 29-year-old would have the right to reject a minor league assignment in lieu of free agency if he clears outright waivers.