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Zduriencik: Jones can be a big part of M’s after refining skills in minors


James Jones will have a chance to return to a corner outfield spot due to the acquisition of Austin Jackson. (AP)

The arrival of Austin Jackson in Seattle meant a variety of things.

It meant the Mariners finally added a reliable right-handed bat, and it meant that they now have an experienced center fielder who could be handle the leadoff spot on a daily basis.

Before Jackson was acquired, though, the Mariners had a player taking the lion’s share of starts in center and leading off: James Jones. And after Jackson joined the team, Jones found himself back at Triple-A Tacoma.

It was a necessary move for the 25-year-old rookie, who was mired in a slump that saw his average plummet from .295 on July 1 to .258 on July 31. The hope is he’ll be back in a Mariners uniform sooner rather than later, though, as general manager Jack Zduriencik told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk.”

“We’ve really, really liked what James Jones has done for us. This is a great story, a great surprise, but you do look at his numbers last month and it’s like any typical young kid coming to the big leagues,” Zduriencik said. “You get exposed, they find out about you, they know your weaknesses, and there’s not a lot you can do about it when you run out there every single day.”

Jones did an admirable job in center for Seattle, but with Jackson around, he’s been afforded the chance to return to a corner outfield spot, which is where he played for the majority of minor-league career.

“Interestingly enough, James played a lot of left field and right field in the minor leagues. He wasn’t primarily a center fielder, so when he got to the big leagues he jumped into a center-field role, and he did a really good job with it,” Zduriencik said.

Despite his early success playing center and hitting near the top of the order for the Mariners, Jones lacks polish, which is something Zduriencik believes he can take care of with a short stint back with the Rainiers.

“I think Jones is a very, very talented young player. He’s got terrific speed and a great throwing arm. He’s a little bit of a stallion, if you will, where it’s still not refined. And he’s gonna get there, and he’s gonna be a nice player for us,” he said.

It appears Zduriencik is eager to have Jones rejoin the Mariners as soon as possible, considering he brings some unique qualities to the table, including a knack for stealing bases — he has a team-high 20 steals in 79 games this season.

“He brought elements to the club that we hadn’t had — the ability to steal bases, the ability to go first-to-third, the excitement because he’s a high-energy player,” Zduriencik said. “But he’s not a refined player, and I think that this is gonna help James Jones as much as it’s gonna help the ball club. And then James Jones eventually is gonna be a nice part of this club going forward.”