DeJesus reflects on first season in Chicago


When Theo Epstein and the rebuilt front office entered free agency last November, David DeJesus was exactly the type of player they were targeting.

The veteran outfielder didn't earn a 100 million contract, but he brought solid defense, an ability to work the count and a professional approach to the 2012 Cubs.

DeJesus's deal -- 4.25 million a year for two seasons with a 6.5 million option or a 1.5 million buyout -- has provided the framework for free agents during Epstein's second offseason.

The Cubs don't plan on making a splash this winter and kicked free agency off with a one-year deal worth 5.5 million (with 1.5 million in incentives) with right-handed pitcher Scott Baker Tuesday morning.

Baker began his career in the American League Central, where DeJesus played for the Royals from 2003-10.

"He's a quality guy," DeJesus said before appearing on Chicago Tribune Live Wednesday evening. "I faced him a lot in Minnesota. He's one of those guys that's gonna throw strikes and be able to move the ball around the plate. I'm excited to see what he does."

DeJesus didn't exactly "own" Baker over the years, but he collected seven hits in 24 at-bats against Baker with three extra-base hits and a pair of walks.

DeJesus entered free agency last season coming off his worst year in the big leagues, hitting just .240 in 506 plate appearances. He turned things around in 2012, boasting a .350 on-base percentage while playing all three outfield spots and spending most of the year in the leadoff spot in the lineup.

But the Cubs still endured their first 100-loss season since 1966 and the roster was turned upside down as Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer determined which players were pieces for the future.

Still, DeJesus, who has a house in Wheaton, Ill., enjoyed his first season in Chicago.

"It's been awesome being able to live in my offseason home," he said. "It's great to call this my home town. The fans have been great. We had a tough year on the ball field, but everything else has been great.

"I've been through a couple 100-loss seasons already, but we're professionals. We have to take every game for what it is. You don't want to be a part of a season like that, but we were and we're just going to keep moving forward and not looking back."

By the end of the season, the Cubs' roster featured a heap of players getting their first taste of major-league action and DeJesus -- who will turn 33 next month -- said he tried to lead by example.

"I just try to be the guy so the young players understand that he's going to prepare himself the same every day," DeJesus said. "It doesn't matter if we're losing on the field. It doesn't matter if we're super high or super low. Our job is to go out there and be professionals. Prepare ourselves mentally and physically everyday for the next day."

Brett Jackson entered 2012 as the Cubs' top outfield prospect and made his MLB debut late in the season, striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats.

"He has to do a little work in the offseason," DeJesus said. "I talked to him a lot. He just has to get his confidence up and he has so many tools out there. I think he's going to be a good player."

DeJesus knows the Cubs are still a ways off from contention, but with almost the entire winter left, the 10-year veteran is staying positive.

"I'm hoping Theo does his thing," he said. "We need some pitching. Everybody knows that. Guys that are going to throw strikes and can eat up innings. That's really what our focus should be right now."

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