Outfielder James Jones is back in the big leagues.
The Seattle Mariners opted to summon Jones from Triple-A Tacoma instead of veteran Franklin Gutierrez prior to Monday’s game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
“A lot of different factors went into it,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “but Jones brings speed and defense in the outfield. Hopefully, that will spark in a different way for us.
“He’s capable of stealing bases when you need them and they know he’s going.”
Earlier signs pointed to the Mariners selecting Gutierrez from the Rainiers’ roster, but that changed after back spasms sidelined Mark Trumbo from Sunday’s game in Houston.
The uncertainty regarding Trumbo, along with Gutierrez’s ongoing health concerns, prompted a switch to Jones. (Trumbo said felt “good” before Monday’s game and planned to take batting practice.)
The Mariners cleared roster space for Jones by optioning reliever Danny Farquhar back to Tacoma after Sunday’s 13-0 loss to the Astros.
Jones, 26, batted .250 with 27 steals in 28 attempts last season in 108 big-league games, but he got squeezed off the roster this spring after the Mariners acquired several veteran players in a series of offseason moves.
It was the recent decision to jettison one of those veterans — Rickie Weeks was designated for assignment prior to Saturday’s game — that created the roster opening.
The Mariners initially filled Weeks’ vacancy by recalling Farquhar because they needed a fresh reliever after taxing their bullpen for 131/3 innings Thursday and Friday.
Farquhar pitched Saturday and Sunday against the Astros before returning to Tacoma.
Jones gained his promotion with a recent surge: a .333 average over the past 15 games with a .446 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. That boosted his season totals to .264 (batting average), .338 (on-base percentrage), .362 (slugging percentage) in 48 games.
“I’ve felt a lot more comfortable at the plate,” Jones said. “Just simplifying it. Just sticking to my approach: Just getting better reads in the outfield and stay aggressive in the zone. Just keeping it that simple.”
Jones suffered a concussion April 17 on a slide at third against El Paso (Padres) at Cheney Stadium. He didn’t return to action until May 2 and batted just .230 in May before his recent surge.
“That was pretty scary,” he said. “It was lights out for a little bit. The third baseman was blocking the bag, and I slide aggressively. I ran into his knee.”
So, does he change his approach?
“No,’ he said, “I try to slide harder so they move out of the way.”
Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz and just about every other American League player continues to sink in the ongoing flood of votes for Kansas City players in the All-Star balloting.
The Royals hold the lead for eight of the nine starting positions. The only exception is Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout.
Cruz now trails Kansas City DH Kendrys Morales, the two-time former Mariner, by 548,977 votes in the latest update. A week ago, Cruz trailed by 141,513. Two weeks ago, Cruz held a lead of 280,854.
Cruz remains the only Mariners player listed among the voting leaders at his position. Major League Baseball releases votes totals for the top 15 outfielders and the top five at all other positions.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma tested his recovery from a strained back muscle Monday by throwing about 40 pitches in three simulated innings against a collection of Single-A Everett players at Safeco Field.
“Each inning got better,” McClendon reported. “He will got to Everett (on Saturday) to begin his rehab. Hopefully, we’ll get 40-45 pitches out of him. Maybe 50. Then re-evaluate after that.”
Iwakuma suffered a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle April 21 in a day-after throwing session following a start against Houston.
Plans call for Iwakuma to start Saturday for the AquaSox against Eugene (Cubs) because Tacoma is at Albuquerque.
Iwakuma is then expected, barring setbacks, to shift to the Rainiers for a June 25 start against Reno (Diamondbacks).
TERMS ON NEIDERT
The Mariners went over slot by nearly $175,000 to sign their top draft pick, right-hander Nick Neidert, whom they chose last week in the second round with the 60th overall selection.
Neidert agreed to a $1.2 million bonus to sign with the Mariners rather than follow through on his collegiate commitment to South Carolina.
The slotted bonus for the 60th overall pick was $1,025,900.
The Mariners previously reached agreement with their second pick, Oregon State right-hander Andrew Moore, for $800,000 — or $52,800 under the slotted bonus for the No. 72 overall selection.
The Mariners are currently $115,000 over the slotted values on reported signings.
JACKSON TO EVERETT
Outfielder Alex Jackson, the organization’s top prospect, heads the provisional roster for Everett, which opens its season Thursday against Eugene at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Jackson, 19, was the Mariners’ top pick in the 2014 draft and ranks No. 1 on The Olympian’s Top 10 preseason list of the organization’s prospects.
The AquaSox’s roster also includes left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara, an 18-year-old who ranks No. 8 on The Olympian’s Top 10, and right-hander Andrew Moore, the organization’s second overall choice in last week’s draft.
In all, Everett’s roster lists 17 players from last week’s draft — hence the provisional quality; the Mariners have only confirmed a handful of signings.
Jackson opened the season at Single-A Clinton but was reassigned in mid-May to extended spring training after batting just .157 with no homers and 13 RBIs in 28 games.
This two-game series marks the Mariners’ first visit to AT&T Park since June 9-11, 2000, when the stadium was in its first year and then known as Pacific Bell Park.
The Mariners won two out of three games.
The only longer gap by a visiting club is San Diego, which has never played at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The new No. 2 on the list, for one day, is St. Louis at Minnesota. The Cardinals haven’t played in Minneapolis since July 18, 2000. But the Cardinals open a two-game series Tuesday at Target Field.
After that, for one day, it will be Texas against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The Rangers’ last visit to Dodger Stadium was June 13, 2001, but they open a two-game series there on Wednesday.
No. 2 then shifts to Cincinnati at Minnesota, where the Reds haven’t played since July 18, 2001.
Single-A Clinton carried a 15-game losing streak into Monday at Fort Wayne (Padres) after getting swept, 2-1 and 16-1, on Sunday in a double-header by the TinCaps.
The 15 straight losses matches the Midwest League record, achieved on three prior occasions: the 1958 Clinton Pirates, the 1975 Cedar Rapids Giants and the 1986 Kenosha Twins.
The LumberKings were 23-25 when they started their skid.
It was seven years ago Tuesday — June 16, 2008 — that the Mariners fired general manager Bill Bavasi and installed Lee Pelekoudas as an interim replacement.
Bavasi held the post for four-plus years after replacing Pat Gillick. The Mariners hired Jack Zduriencik on Oct. 22, 2008 as Bavasi’s full-time replacement.
Zduriencik is in his seventh full season, which makes him the longest-serving general manager in franchise history.
The Mariners and Giants complete the San Francisco portion of their two-and-two series at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday at AT&T Park. Lefty J.A. Happ (3-2, 3.72 ERA) will oppose Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum (6-3, 3.33). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.