HOUSTON – James Jones had a career day on Monday – perhaps a young career day as I would suspect we will see more – with four hits and three stolen bases. When asked to talk about what we were seeing from the Mariners' leadoff hitter, manager Lloyd McClendon smiled and told a story of what happened before that game.
"He came in and knocked on the door and said, 'Can I talk to you?' " McClendon recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, come on in.' I thought something was wrong with a family problem or something. He said, 'What can I do to get better?' This kid is special in that respect. He wants to be the best he can be. And I don't think he is motivated by the dollar figures, so to speak. He's motivated to be the best player he can be and that's special."
This says so much about the player and the manager.
Jones is driven but McClendon has provided the atmosphere where a rookie has no problem walking into his office and asking questions. McClendon told Jones he was doing a great job, that he still needs work on when to be aggressive on the basepaths (he still doesn't always have the green light), that his outfield routes were improving and to continue with his video work.
McClendon's last piece of advice was perhaps the best.
"Whatever you do, don't let Robinson (Cano) out of your sight," McClendon told him.
Jones has shown remarkable progress at this level. Pitchers are making adjustments and he is adjusting right along with them. Four hits to all fields, all legitimate hits out of the infield and two of them off breaking balls is not something you see every day from rookies, let alone rookies who had all of 24 games at Triple-A.
Then there is the base stealing. He is 17 for 18 in stolen-base attempts and this interestingly enough includes a number of steals of third. You just don't see that very often, especially from a player who has a hitter like Cano behind him. If you are going to steal third you cannot get thrown out. Most runners won't risk it, but Jones isn't like most runners.
"I feel like third is easier than second," he said. "You gain a lot more momentum, being that you don't have a guy on the bag waiting for you. If it makes my hitter get better pitches, I'm going to take that risk. If it is one of those situations where we are up one run or one hit is going to score me regardless, I will take that risk."
He believes that he can catch the pitcher off guard or perhaps better yet steal the pitcher's attention.
"When we have our big hitters, our RBI hitters up, I feel like they are, 'Alright, there's no way he's going to go for third,' " Jones said, "but I definitely want to get their attention on that so they can't execute those pitches."
It's a double-edged sword. The possibility for positive results whether they see it coming or not. Just one more fun thing to watch with Jones on this team.
Endy Chavez, DH
James Jones, 8
Robinson Cano, 4
Kyle Seager, 5
Logan Morrison, 3
Mike Zunino, 2
Michael Saunders, 9
Dustin Ackley, 7
Brad Miller, 6
• Prior to Tuesday's game the Astros called up LHP Kevin Chapman, INF Kiké Hernandez and OF Domingo Santana from Triple-A Oklahoma City. To make room Dexter Fowler was placed on the 15-day DL, RHP Jerome Williams was designated for assignment and SS Jonathan Villar was optioned to Oklahoma City.
• The Mariners finished June with the best run differential in baseball. The Mariners came out 47 runs ahead followed by the Dodgers at plus-39 and the Royals at plus-36.
• Mike Zunino leads all American League catchers in home runs with 12. Brad Miller is tied for the league lead among shortstops with eight.