If you got to watch all 14 innings of last nights Pirates game, I hope you walked away saying the same thing I did. "What a great ballgame." I love watching pitching and last night was a treat. Maholm is always good at PNC Park and Lincecum is tremendous. As many games as I see, Lincecum is probably the pitcher I've enjoyed watching the most the last four or five seasons. He is flat out has filthy stuff. Maholm, was up for the challenge, and matched him pitch for pitch. Had it not been for Freddy Sanchez's bonehead play, the Bucs probably win 1-0. No problem though, Garret Jones to the rescue.
Jones has been a life preserver to a Bucco lineup that was drowning slowly. He has homered in four straight games, with a total of five in that span; including his two solo shots yesterday, accounting for both Bucco runs. No Pirate has homered in 5 straight games since......Wait for it.......Jose Castillo. Yes, that Jose Castillo. many want to know where Jones came from and why he wasn't on the opening day roster.
Jones is filled with power, but never had the opportunity to play regularly in the big leagues. He was drafted by Atlanta in the 14th round in 1999. Injuries slowed him there and he was signed by the Twins in 2002. He has played over 1,000 games in the minors, homering 158 times. not exactly numbers that jump off the page. In addition, he was only a career .258 hitter in the minors. The thing that worked to his disadvantage the most was he was stuck behind Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer with the Twins.
Jones isn't exactly a prospect, being he already 28. However, there have been guys who didn't get the call until closer to 30 and have become good major leaguers. Most notably Casey Blake, now with the Dodgers, didn't make his major league debut until age 29. Closer to home, Pirates fans will remember Mike Easler didn't get called up til he was 28 or 29 and preformed well.
Given the opportunity, Bucco manager John Russell pushed hard to sign Jones this past winter. Jones used to preform very well against teams Russell managed in the minors. Jones responded by having an outstanding spring, opening many eyes. Problem being he was blocked by Adam Laroche and there wasn't much available playing time in the outfield, so the Bucs elected to keep Craig Monroe and send Jones to Indy.
Since his recall, Jones has wasted no time showing he belongs. In only 12 games, Jones has hit .315 with 7 Hr and 9rbis. He moves real well for a big guy, with 3 steals already and is above average defensively. Russell said he will be the everyday left fielder, while Young and Moss will continue to platoon in right. Jones shows patience at the plate and has shown the ability to hit lefties as well as righties. Four of his 7 homers have come off lefties. It's funny, no one seems to be bitching about the Nyjer Morgan trade now.
I expect Jones to keep producing. The true test will come when teams figure out how to pitch him and the scouting report gets out. We will see how Jones reacts when he goes through a slump. While he's doing well in left, I still he him as the first baseman of the immediate future. Once Laroche is dealt, I see no reason not to move him to first for a couple of years. If things work out, it's a real nice big bat to have in the middle of an order that has no power otherwise.