A desire to add speed to the roster prompted the Mariners to recall outfielder James Jones from the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers prior to Monday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field.
“James will fit in the the defensive side of things,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Late in games, he might steal some bases for us. I doubt if he’ll get a lot of playing time though.”
Jones, 25, stole 20 bases in 21 attempts before a slumping bat resulted in an Aug. 1 demotion to Tacoma. He was 9-for-36 in eight games for the Rainiers prior to his recall.
“It definitely gave me time to reset,” Jones said. “I felt like I was pressing. Now, I’m relaxed again.”
The Mariners created a roster opening Sunday night by optioning pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to the Rainiers after he worked 41/3 scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The decision to recall Jones also stems, in part, from outfielder Michael Saunders being unavailable.
Saunders is 6-for-17 through five games at Tacoma while on a rehab assignment for a strained left oblique. But he left the Rainiers after Monday’s game to be present for the birth of his second child.
Jones played primarily center field this season for the Mariners and the Rainiers but will shift now, due to the July 31 acquisition of Austin Jackson, to a corner outfield role.
“I’m comfortable in the corners,” Jones said. That’s where I played the majority of the time (in my career). Center field became more of a primary (position) late last year and this year.”
Because of an open date Thursday in the schedule, the Mariners won’t need a fifth starting pitcher until Aug. 19 at Philadelphia. They are expected to recall rookie lefty Roenis Elias at that time.
Jones batted .258 with a .287 on-base percentage for the Mariners in 79 games but was in a 3-for-41 slide when sent to the Rainiers.
“They were going (out) of the zone,” he said, “and I was chasing their pitches.”
MILLER STARTS AT SHORT
Brad Miller drew his first start since Aug. 3 when McClendon opted to rest rookie shortstop Chris Taylor.
“(Miller is) playing for a couple of reasons,” McClendon said. “He needs to get some at-bats. My old skipper used to say everybody needs to feel like a hero every now and then.
“But more importantly, I need to give the kid a (break), too. He’s been going at it, and I’m sure it’s been pretty emotional for him. It’s a good chance to get him off his feet.”
Taylor is batting .400 (18-for-45) in 14 games since his July 24 promotion from Tacoma. He also has at least one hit in each of his 12 starts. Miller batted .199 in 91 games before losing his job to Taylor.
It’s easy to get into a debate over the best way to measure a club’s fielding proficiency, but the Mariners lead the majors at turning balls put into play into outs.
That seems to be the basic goal, doesn’t it?
The Mariners, through Sunday, had a .720 percentage in “defensive efficiency,” which is a metric that combines pitching and fielding stats while using two estimates of plays made.
The Mariners’ rating represents a sharp increase over last season, when they ranked 23rd among the 30 clubs at .683. The 2013 major-league average was .692.
Cincinnati currently ranks second and leads the National League at .717. Oakland ranks third overall and second among American League clubs at .711. The major-league average is .690.
The Blue Jays, after playing 19 innings Sunday, bolstered their bullpen by promoting left-hander Brad Mills from Triple-A Buffalo. They cleared space by optioning infielder Ryan Goins to Buffalo...The Mariners’ pitching staff entered Monday with a combined 2.99 ERA. No American League club has finished with a sub-3.00 ERA since the 1974 Oakland A’s (2.95) ... Umpire Quinn Wolcott, who worked the plate in Monday’s game, is a Puyallup native who went to Emerald Ridge High School. He is in his first season as a full-time umpire at the major-league level. ... The Mariners entered the week with a 12-1 record on Mondays. That was the best Monday record in the majors. The second-best was Baltimore at 10-3. The Mariners also entered Monday with an MLB-best 25-14 record in series openers. The Orioles were second at 24-15.
It was five years ago Tuesday — Aug. 12, 2009 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit a two-out, walk-off single in the 14th inning that provided the game’s only run in the Mariners’ 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field.
Griffey’s single came against reliever Tony Pena and marked the ninth walk-off hit of his career. It ended the first game in Mariners’ history to remain scoreless into the 14th inning.
Want to guess the Mariners’ starting pitcher?
Yes, it was Felix Hernandez, who worked seven innings with 10 strikeouts before handing a scoreless game to the bullpen. Current Blue Jays lefty Mark Buehrle pitched eight innings for Chicago.
The Mariners and Blue Jays continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Chris Young (10-6, 3.27 ERA) will oppose Toronto lefty J.A. Happ (8-6, 4.09).
Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The series concludes Wednesday night. The Mariners have an open date Thursday before embarking on a nine-game trip to Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston.