By Shannon Drayer
OAKLAND, Calif. – As expected, the Mariners called up James Jones to replace Abraham Almonte on the 25-man roster. The question was, how much would he play and where would he play? Those questions were answered quickly by manager Lloyd McClendon in his session with the media before Monday’s game against the A’s.
“He’s going to play,” said McClendon. “I just didn’t want to play him against (Athletics starting pitcher Scott) Kazmir.”
It was apparent early that McClendon liked what he saw from Jones in spring training. A number of things caught his eye.
“Very talented young man,” he said. “His mentality for his defense, ability to steal bases. I think he should hit at this level. We’ll find out. It’s an opportunity.”
He also liked what he saw from Almonte in spring training. With him it may have been more about potential. McClendon believes that potential is still there.
“I don’t think it (his struggles) was something that took any of us by surprise,” he said. “The fact is we believed in him. I still believe in him. I think he is going to be an everyday player at the big league level. He’s not the first player to happen to go back. That’s what I told him. Go back, play hard, work hard, when there’s a need you will be back.”
As for Jones, he is here to play center. Where he bats in the order remains to be seen. It’s a tall order to bat leadoff as a rookie. In that first at-bat of every game you are facing every pitcher for the first time without even the benefit of seeing a teammate or two face him first. Michael Saunders has handled the leadoff spot very well in the last four games, but how much will you be able to have both Saunders and Jones on the field at the same time? Jones does not have to play every day. I hope they pick their spots with him rather than run him out there every day like they did with Almonte. That didn’t seem to work out too well. Now that we are past the first month we are seeing McClendon protect players with more experience like Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller. Perhaps we will see the same with Jones.
Lineup notes: Saunders is 8×18 the last 4 games batting leadoff… Quick! Which spot in the order has had the least production this season? Leadoff, right? Wrong. The second spot is the guilty party here. One and two have combined for a line of .214/.253/.335/.588 with 82 strikeouts. The second spot has hit .176/.202/.296/.498. Both spots have 41 strikeouts. Not good…Mike Zunino is hitting .315/.351/.574/.925 on the road so far this season…Chris Young has pitched eight scoreless innings against the A’s this season, two in relief.