James Jones returned to the Tacoma Rainiers for Monday’s game against the Sacramento River Cats after being sent down from the Seattle Mariners to make room for right-hander Brandon Maurer.
Jones, a 25-year-old outfielder from Long IslandUniversity, had one at-bat from when he was recalled on April 16 and optioned back before the Mariners’ game Sunday in Miami. He made it count – collecting his first major-league base hit.
“It was surreal,” Jones said. “It felt great. I was really thinking about getting the RBI there, but it was a memorable moment.”
The experience went by quick. But Jones said he was with the Mariners long enough to take a few things away.
“I got a lot of stuff from Willie (Bloomquist) and (John) Buck and (Robinson) Cano said a lot of things to me,” Jones said. “(Michael) Saunders helped me a lot, as well. It was cool to see how many guys reached out to me.”
He said his toughest adjustment was the strategy involved when the Mariners went to National League mode against the Marlins.
“Even though I was on the bench, I was still taking swings a lot when we were on defense and come back when we were back on offense,” Jones said. “Bloomquist and Buck were all over me, telling me to be ready all the time to pinch hit or pinch run and explaining double switches.”
Rainiers manager Roy Howell has worked with Jones since they were at Class A High Desert together. Howell gave Jones a phone call to tell him to head to Texas and get himself ready for the big leagues.
“Bottom line, you hope he left thinking that is where he belongs,” Howell said. “You just want him to take away that ‘I want to be back there.’
“Whatever you have to use as motivation – the hotels might be nicer, the TV’s are bigger, the clubhouse might be nicer – whatever it is, you want them to want to get back there.”
Jones played four games at the end of last season with the Rainiers after being called up from Double-A Jackson. He then played11 games with the Rainiers this season before getting the call up to the big leagues.
Jones was hitting .310 with the Rainiers this season before the promotion. He hit .278 between Jackson and Tacoma last season.
“I was surprised,” Jones said of the call-up. “Of course I would like to be up there and contributing to the team, but I just have to keep working. You can’t let that get you down.
“I know it’s a business. So it’s out of my control who goes up and down. But it’s about everyday giving it our best. I feel like there are a lot of guys who could be playing up in the big leagues, but whenever they need a guy, I definitely feel like I can fit into a role up there.”
Howell just wished he had the opportunity to tell Jones he was going to be a major-leaguer to his face.
“He’s a special kid,” Howell said. “He played well in the spring and they liked him and they see big things for him in the future.”