By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — A desire to add speed to the roster prompted the Seattle Mariners to recall outfielder James Jones from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Monday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field.
“James will fit in in 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,” he 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 Tacoma 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 Tacoma but will shift now, due to the July 31 acquisition of Austin Jackson, to a corner 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.”