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Jones settling into leadoff role as 'high-energy' asset

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon obviously likes what he has seen from James Jones in the leadoff role, as the rookie center fielder was back at the top of the lineup for a third straight day in Monday's series opener with the Rays.

Jones went 2-for-7 with a double, two walks and a run scored in his first two games leading off over the weekend against the Royals and was hitting .389 (7-for-18) in his first eight appearances overall.

"He's a high-energy kid," McClendon said. "He brings a lot of intangibles to the table, not to mention his speed and defense. He gets after it pretty good and I think he energizes the rest of the guys."

Michael Saunders did well in the leadoff spot for a stretch, but has gone 1-for-20 with two walks over his last seven games and is now sidelined with a hyper-extended knee.

"He's getting better," McClendon said. "It's sore, but I don't think it's anything that is going to [disabled list] him as we speak right now. The doctors just feel it'll take a few days until he can get back out there. He's a little tender, even to swing."

So Jones will continue to learn on the job and play on an everyday basis for now. McClendon knows the leadoff role isn't easy for a rookie, but feels Jones has the skill set to fill an obvious need on his team. And he'll get plenty of coaching on how to approach different pitchers as he goes.

"We just want him to do what he does, be the same guy he was in Triple-A," McClendon said. "And we'll try to guide him through it. If he's facing a guy we think has shaky command, then he needs to be a little more patient. If it's a strike thrower, then he needs to be a little more aggressive.

"If it's a strike-thrower who has an out pitch, it makes no sense to take pitches and get behind in the count. If it's a guy that is struggling and has command problems, maybe you need to see a few more. We'll help guide him through that and eventually that's something he'll learn on his own."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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