© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/15/07 10:10 PM ET
Notes: Jones gets the start
Vaunted rookie learning from his role on Seattle's bench
By Bob Sherwin / Special to MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Adam Jones has started just 10 out of a possible 40 games since his promotion Aug. 3 from Triple-A Tacoma. Most of his 28 overall appearances have been as a substitute, pinch-runner or pinch-hitter. That doesn't mean his development has been stinted. "He's learning [by] not playing. He's refining his game," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "And when you look at it, where do you play him? Raul [Ibanez] is going to have 100 RBIs. [Jose] Guillen is going to have 100 RBIs. He's not replacing Ichiro [Suzuki]. "He's still learning a lot since he's been here. I think it's going to pay off for him." Jones, who started in left field Saturday against Tampa Bay, has adapted to the bench. He understands that's his role at this point in his young career. "I study pitchers. Guys who play the game [regularly] look at the game, but not as much. It makes me observe more," Jones said. "I look to see if maybe the pitcher's tipping something. "If someone's on first, I try to get down the first-base line in the dugout a little further to see his move to first. You never know what might happen. If he's still pitching, I may come in as a pinch-runner. That kind of situation." What the club mainly asks him to do is one of the hardest jobs in the game: pinch-hit. It's not something he did with much regularity in high school or coming through the Minors. "I just have to prepare myself early," said the 22-year-old. "That's why we have the facility that we have here. When I'm not [starting], it doesn't mean I'm sitting around watching the game. Around the sixth inning, I get my legs loose, my body loose, throw a little bit, hit in the cage a little bit. You never know." Guillen and other veterans have been giving him plenty of support, as well as ribbing. Does he think he has gained their respect? "I hope so," Jones said. "I hope I don't get on anybody's bad side. I'm just trying to do my part." Throwing them out: Catcher Kenji Johjima is close to the same kind of numbers he had last season, his first big league season after coming over from Japan. He's hitting .288 (.291 last season) with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs. But where he has made the most significant gains is his throwing. He has thrown out 37.1 percent of potential stealers -- third-best in the American League -- compared to 27.8 percent last year. Since May 1, he has thrown out 26 of 62 runners (42 percent). He threw out two baserunners Friday to complete double plays and end innings. That area was one of McLaren's primary points of emphasis during Spring Training. "He's using his arm strength, which we talked about in Spring Training," McLaren said. "It's not so much his quickness. He's got quickness, but he's using his arm strength. It's huge when you get double plays like that. It kills the inning and any momentum they're trying to get going. "He did it three, four times in the last week or so. That's been huge for us." But as those familiar with the game would say, you don't steal bases off the catcher but the pitcher. McLaren said what has helped all the catchers this season is making the pitchers use slide-step deliveries more frequently with runners on bases. "I think it has paid off for us," he added. "We've got some ways to go. Sometimes pitchers get caught up in themselves. They think they're quick to the plate, but they're still loading up off their back leg and getting a slow time [to the plate]." Mariners' log: Willie Bloomquist started his fourth straight game Saturday in place of regular Jose Lopez. "I'm going with the hot hand," McLaren said. "With him in there, we've been winning. Whether it's energy or good luck charm, you name it. It's been working. We're going to stick with it." ... Guillen reached 90 RBIs on Friday for the second time in his career. His best season was 2004 when he had 104. On deck: The finale of the four-game series and the homestand on Sunday afternoon will feature lefty Jarrod Washburn (9-14, 4.49 ERA) taking the mound for the Mariners. He'll be opposed by Devil Rays righty Andy Sonnanstine (5-9, 5.96 ERA).
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.