Jones to take full advantage of playing time
JUPITER, Fla. -- When the call was made by a former teammate, Garrett Jones didn't take too long to say he was on board. The selling point was that Jones would be given a chance to play regularly and have a chance to shed the "platoon" label.
The call was placed by manager Mike Redmond, a teammate of Jones' in Minnesota in 2007.
"They came right out and said, 'You're going to get that chance to play every day,'" Jones said. "That's something that was really intriguing, and definitely was something I wanted at this point of my career, to get a chance to play every day again. To get a chance to put up some numbers and help the team."
Jones, 32, is a left-handed-hitting first baseman long on power but short on at-bats against southpaws. A large part of that is based on production. In limited opportunities with the Pirates last season, he batted .095 with one RBI.
Pittsburgh used a platoon system at first base, with Jones sharing time with Gaby Sanchez. Later in the season, Pittsburgh acquired Justin Morneau, and he saw time at the position.
The way Pirates manager Clint Hurdle used his personnel certainly worked, because his team not only snapped its streak of 20 straight losing seasons, it claimed a National League Wild Card berth.
In December the Pirates decided to part ways with Jones, who had been in their organization since 2009. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder was designated for assignment and became a free agent.
The Marlins approached quickly, with Redmond wasting little time making contact and expressing interest.
"We had talked about Garrett Jones, and I just wanted to reach out to him," Redmond said. "We played together in Minnesota. I wanted him to realize the opportunity here. He's one of those guys who has always had to grind and earn every single thing that he's gained in this game.
"I wanted him to hear from me how much he could impact our team and [how much] we'd love to have him."
At least initially, Jones will get a chance against lefties. But as a fallback, Jeff Baker was signed as a right-handed-hitting alternative.
The Marlins see in Jones a middle-of-the-order threat who has 102 career home runs, including 20 or more in three of the past five seasons.
Once it was clear that Jones was going to sign, the Marlins decided to change their plan of going through the arbitration process with Logan Morrison, who was traded to the Mariners for reliever Carter Capps.
The Marlins could have taken the approach that Jones was strictly a platoon option at first base, but they didn't see him that way.
"It's a confidence thing for a player," Redmond said. "Everybody wants to know that their manager and organization has faith in them. As a former player, that's big for guys. He's going to get that opportunity to go out there and play. We signed him to play every day."
Another transition for Jones will be playing in Marlins Park, one of the more spacious stadiums in the league.
"It's definitely a big park, but it has big gaps," Jones said. "I'm not going to try to hit home runs, just drive in some runs -- hit line drives and let the home runs come. I hope my RBIs and doubles are up. If my home runs are down, so be it, as long as I'm driving in runs and doing my job."
After finishing with a Major League-low 95 homers last season, the Marlins sought some lefty power.
Jones showed what kind of threat he can be in 2012, when he belted 27 homers and drove in 86 runs.
In 2013 he delivered 15 home runs and drove in 51 in 403 at-bats.
"To get that chance to face lefties on a more regular basis, I feel like it's just going to help me have more success off of them," Jones said. "It's just great for them to have that belief in me, as much as I do, that I can hit lefties. I wanted to get that opportunity, and that's definitely what they are giving me."
Even though the full-time opportunity is on the table, it's up to Jones to grab it. Production will ultimately decide.
"That will really be up to him," Redmond said.
Jones' numbers show that work needs to be done, as he is a career .193 hitter with 16 homers and 58 RBIs off lefties. Against right-handers he has a .271 batting average, with 86 homers and 272 RBIs.
"It's just about being comfortable in the box," Jones said. "The more you see them, the more you're going to feel comfortable. I think it's mostly just timing and just having a good approach off certain guys, and not just going up there swinging at anything."