Veteran Dubois Continues Slugging at Iowa

Jason Dubois (PHOTO/LARRY WOOLIS)

DES MOINES - Jason Dubois stole the show for Class AAA Iowa Wednesday at Principal Park, overshadowing a strong outing from Cubs pitching prospect Jeff Samardzija by hitting three home runs.

Dubois didn't get a fourth at-bat, as first-place Iowa (57-38) secured a 5-2 win over Round Rock in the second game of a doubleheader.

Figuratively speaking, the 29-year-old infielder/outfielder is probably still far away from Chicago, but he made an emphatic extension Wednesday to what is now a string of nine straight starts with a hit. Dubois is batting .336 with 16 home runs in 110 at-bats since joining Iowa in May.

Dubois said he has hit three home runs in a game before (on April 30, 2004 while at Iowa, to be exact), but he downplayed his role in Wednesday's performance.

"I saw the ball well today, and I just hit a couple mistakes. That's all that happened," Dubois said.

In what was one of his best professional starts, Samardzija pitched six shutout innings before giving up back-to-back home runs in the seventh.

Samardzija had Round Rock hitters guessing through the first six innings before OF Nick Gorneault and catcher Lou Santangelo – the sixth and seventh hitters in the order, respectively – crushed solo home runs with one out in the seventh.

After a meeting on the mound, Samardzija closed out the shortened seven-inning game. He allowed seven hits, struck out seven and did not walk a batter. In the fourth inning, Samardzija struck out the side – each time with a pitch in the dirt. He threw 96 pitches – 63 for strikes – against the Express, who have the second-worst batting average (.257) and total number of runs scored (416) in the Pacific Coast League.

Meanwhile, Dubois provided all the run support the Cubs needed. In the first inning, he sat on the first pitch he saw from pitcher Chad Reineke – a hanging slider that Dubois smoothly sent over the left-field wall.

In the third inning, Dubois fell behind 0-2 before sending a fastball from Reineke over the left-field wall. Express reliever Jorge Sosa came into the game in the fifth inning, got one out and then got ahead in the count, 0-2, before throwing a slider up and away to Dubois, who drove the pitch over the center-field wall.

Dubois said he doesn't go up to the plate trying to hit home runs.

"There's always a possibility; I don't really try to go up there and hit home runs. I just try to make solid contact," Dubois said after the game. "You know, if it goes for a hit, it goes for a hit. I just try my best to do the best I can."

Dubois now has a .818 slugging percentage with Iowa. Earlier this season, Dubois played 33 games with the Class AAA Columbus Clippers before being released after batting .217. He was signed by the Cubs the next day.

Dubois was initially drafted by Chicago in 2000 and had ascended to the majors before being traded in July, 2005 to Cleveland for OF Jody Gerut.

Dubois played in 52 games with Chicago that season and 14 for Cleveland before being sent down to Class AAA Buffalo, where he would spend all of 2006. Dubois then spent all of 2007 at Class AAA Norfolk in the Baltimore Orioles' system.

"It feels pretty good to be back," Dubois said. "I bounced around the [International League] for awhile. It feels good to be back, and I'm glad to be here."

On arrival, Dubois had to earn playing time.

In his first game with Iowa on May 19, Dubois got his first hit. He didn't play in the next two games, but rewarded Cubs manager Pat Listach three days later with a solo-home run in an 8-3 loss to Omaha.

He played the next night, went 0-for-4 and sat through the team's next six games. But in his next start, Dubois hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to tie Memphis, 4-4. Casey McGehee later won that game with a walk-off home run to lead off the ninth, and that win lit a fire under the I-Cubs that has burned into July, as the team has won 10 of their last 12 and lead the PCL American Northern Division by five games.

In 19 games batting cleanup, Dubois has gone 25-for-68 (.368) with 10 home runs, six walks and 25 RBIs. Iowa was 21-10 during the month of June and now 7-2 in July.

Micah Hoffpauir took back first base when he was sent down by Chicago on July 24, but Dubois seems to have created another opportunity for himself within the organization. Free agent 1B/OF Ben Broussard's two-week contract ran out last week, and OF Matt Murton was traded to Oakland on Tuesday.

Iowa hitting coach Von Joshua noted that players like Dubois can turn themselves into a resource for a major league team.

"The only thing for some of these guys, if they can shorten their swings just a little bit – and that's not always the easiest thing to do – they'd make a good fourth outfielder, or utility type of guy, or pinch-hitter – a guy that's very valuable, like a Daryle Ward," he said. "It's a matter of them getting their swings just a little bit shorter."

Joshua said that Dubois has a tendency to "slide a little bit" and that his swing can get too long. But one of Dubois' distinguishing characteristics has helped him maintain his consistency.

"He works at it. You can't find a guy that works harder than Jason. I used to get on him all the time. He was one of these guys, he'd swing a thousand times a day. And we had to back him off," Joshua said. "Now that he's a little older, he's not doing that as much as he did in the past, so he's matured a little bit."

Dubois said that he is just trying to have fun and not worry about what happens next.

"If something good happens, that's good," he said. "If not, then oh well."

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