08/20/07 10:00 AM ET
DeJesus nominated for Aaron Award
Outfielder to represent Royals in online award voting
By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com
DeJesus starts with the Iron Mike, the batting machine in the indoor cages. He will then bunt and take pitches, closely watching every offering cross the plate. After a few rounds, DeJesus starts swinging and tries to hit every ball right back through the middle.
Then, he heads to the diamond for regular batting practice. After he finishes, DeJesus retreats to the indoor cages for tee work. When hitting coach Mike Barnett finishes with team batting practice, he joins DeJesus for soft toss and more swings.
The daily repetition is vital for DeJesus, Kansas City's nominee for the Hank Aaron Award. Since 1999, Major League Baseball has recognized the best offensive performer from each league with the Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp.
Past recipients include Barry Bonds (three times), Alex Rodriguez (three times), Manny Ramirez (twice), David Ortiz, Andruw Jones, Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa and Carlos Delgado.
Last year's winners, selected in balloting during the regular season's final month on MLB.com, were New York's Derek Jeter and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard.
"He is very regimented and that is one of the reasons that he has been able to maintain his consistency," Barnett said of DeJesus. "His work ethic is second-to-none."
It's DeJesus' consistency that yields several numbers that rank among the American League's elite. In addition to a solid .360 on-base percentage, DeJesus, whom manager Buddy Bell calls the team's best hitter, ranks in the top 10 in runs scored (84) and hit by pitches (15).
However, DeJesus, oft-injured in past years, is most proud of two other league-leading numbers: plate appearances (538) and games played (118). Both stand in the top six among AL hitters.
"My priority was being on the field for 162 games," he said. "I want to be a guy that they can count on."
Veteran Mark Grudzielanek, the Royals No. 2 hitter, compares DeJesus to All-Star Paul Lo Duca: a steady player every game.
"I love his command of the zone," Grudzielanek said. "I think it is really hard to be disciplined like that and try to hit strikes. That's the number one thing for a hitter.
"He is one of those guys you have to have."
DeJesus has constantly tinkered with his swing throughout the season. After slumping in May, he worked with Barnett on changing his weight balance. Instead of staying back, Barnett wanted him to focus on going forward.
"He was almost sitting back too far," Barnett said. "He was back behind the ball so much that he was almost getting back uphill."
The changes have helped DeJesus bat .291 with a .381 on-base percentage since June 1.
"It's been one of those up-and-down years where I would go on a little run and come back down," DeJesus added. "It's been draining. I can see how tough this game is. You have to keep working every day."
And DeJesus does.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.