PHOENIX, Ariz. — Justin Turner‘s wrist injury cast a shadow over an otherwise positive 3-1 win against the Oakland Athletics on a cool Monday night at Camelback Ranch. The Dodgers’ offense was fueled by three late-inning home runs, one each from Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Trayce Thompson. Alex Wood pitched five scoreless innings and struck out seven, and Kenley Jansen looked like his dominant self in a perfect sixth inning.
J.T. Chargois followed Jansen and also pitched a perfect frame in the seventh, striking out the side. The 27-year old right-hander claimed off waivers from the Twins on Feb. 23 picked up the win, his first during Spring Training and as a Dodger.
I had the opportunity to talk with Chargois before the game, and he spoke with me about the process he has worked through as far as his injuries that led to mechanical adjustments, plus his new baseball chapter with the Dodgers.
“It was definitely a good feeling to know that a team wanted me. But it was just a crazy 24 hours, really. I don’t know. It really didn’t take my mind off my goal, and that was to come in everyday this season and treat everyday like that is the most important thing. But it was awesome to come to the Dodgers obviously. This is an unbelievable team. What a great classroom it’s been so far. To come, and the character qualities….incredible players. It’s been awesome.”
Speaking of incredible players, it also happened to be Clayton Kershaw‘s 30th birthday. Obviously having Kershaw on your team is a great asset for pitchers to look to for advice and inspiration.
“Yeah definitely. Actually my first bullpen he [Kershaw] came over and said a few words to me as far as positioning of a runner. That’s one thing I really appreciate about this organization is when anyone is doing anything- whatever they’re doing, hitting or pitching-there’s a great collection of people observing and giving advice, and everyone’s always trying to learn. So that progressive mentality is something I really appreciate.”
The Dodgers’ bullpen still has yet to be finalized with less than one week remaining before Opening Day. Chargois is an intriguing bullpen option especially after he has looked healthy and effective so this spring (1.13 ERA/0.63 WHIP with 10 strikeouts and three walks in eight innings).
Once a top pitching prospect in the Twins’ organization, Minnesota tried to outright Chargois to Triple-A Rochester, but the Dodgers saw his raw talent and took a flyer on him. The front office has been keen on taking chances on players who are either looking to overcome injury and or mechanical flaws. For example, their signing of hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Morrow last winter worked out well, helping to solidify that notorious bridge to Jansen in late innings.
Pronounced “shag-wa,” Chargois was a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2012 out of Rice University. The Louisiana native admits he doesn’t do much in the area [Phoenix/LA] outside of baseball, but has been enjoying himself nonetheless.
“This is a great culture. I mean I don’t really do much as far as the area. I mean I go to the hotel, I fall asleep, and I come to the field and I do baseball.”
Chargois’s positivity and gratefulness to be playing baseball is apparent and understandable, considering that he had once considered to be a future closer before injuries hampered his path. After he was drafted, he only pitched 16 innings in the Appalachian League before he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013. He missed two seasons entirely, before returning to the mound. Chargois split time in the minors in 2015 between Single-A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A Chattanooga. He had a combined season ERA of 2.63/1.313 WHIP with 15 saves in 15 opportunities, 53 strikeouts and two wins in 48 innings of work.
At the major league level, Chargois pitched 25 games in relief for the Twins in 2016. He posted a 4.70 ERA and 1.609 WHIP in 23 innings, with 17 strikeouts, 12 walks and no home runs allowed. Unfortunately he only made only two appearances in 2017 for Triple-A Rochester before a stress reaction on the outside of his throwing elbow stalled his progression temporarily.
“Last year I had a stress reaction which basically is a developing stress fracture. But a lot of rest and a lot of mechanical evaluation and Spring Training and the off-season and everything feels great so far.”
Chargois has opened a lot of eyes this spring, and he’s shown glimpses of the once touted prospect who touched triple digits consistently and sat in the high-90s with no trouble. With a lot of life in his pitches, the power fastball is coupled with a hard slurve. He also has a good changeup. He keeps the ball down and has only allowed three home runs during his professional career, something the Dodgers are always looking for in late-inning arms.
After he adjusted a mechanical issue with his follow-through, Chargois told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was the one who figured out his mechanical glitch, and there’s nothing physically wrong with him.
“Yeah it’s been this ongoing process and several things have evolved and developed into what I’m doing now. So I feel great and everything’s starting to get in sync and more consistent. It’s been a very enjoyable process-obviously being hurt is not fun but just to have the experience and go and to learn to break things down and have another opportunity to come and play baseball again. I can’t feel anymore blessed.”
Chargois has one option year remaining and looks forward to contributing at any level of the Dodgers organization this season.
“That would be great to contribute in anyway. Whatever level I’m playing at, that’s the priority coming into this year is that every day is going to be one day at a time. Every day, whatever day that is, is the most important thing and if it’s at the big league level, I’m going to bring everything I have to the table every single day and if it’s in Oklahoma City, same situation. Tulsa, same situation.”
The opportunity in Los Angeles could come early in the season — perhaps even Opening Day.