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Pirates' Jones readies for new role as platoon player

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

BRADENTON, Fla. — During one day in December, Garrett Jones went from being the Pirates' starting first baseman to the team's starting right fielder to the starting right fielder against right-handed pitchers.

Not exactly news a player wants to hear, particularly a 29-year-old who just finished his first full season in the majors. But Jones said Friday that while he would love to have a starting job, if first baseman Lyle Overbay and right field platoon-mate Matt Diaz help the Pirates win, he is OK with a more limited role.

"If we're winning," he said, "it's going to be a lot more fun."

At 6 feet 4, 240 pounds, Jones said he lost five to 10 pounds, thinning down with an offseason workout plan that emphasized speed and agility. It was something he started before his position and role changed with the mid-December signings of Overbay and Diaz, who is known for having a lethal bat against left-handers.

"I think last year I tried to bulk up a little too much, and I lost some of my flexibility," Jones said. "This year I still lifted (weights) but focused on the flexibility and agility and speed part, and I think that's more beneficial for me."

The drills would change every day, Jones said, from pulling sled weights and working on explosiveness one day to focusing on footwork and balance the next. One thing that never changed was how exhausted he was after every session.

"I feel like it's the most beneficial thing I've done ever in the offseason, as far as conditioning goes," he said.

Jones also worked on shortening his swing and using his hands more. The left-handed hitter went from 314 at-bats in 82 games in 2009 to 592 in 158 games in 2010. He doubled his RBI total from 44 to 86 but had the same number of home runs (21) and his average dropped from .293 to .247.

"I felt like last year I used my body a lot, body swinging and not letting my hands and the barrel do the work," he said. "I feel a little jumpy at the plate right now, but I'm just getting back to what I need to do to be successful."

That jumpiness continued in a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at McKechnie Field yesterday, a game in which Jones started in right field and went 0 for 3, bringing his spring total to 3 for 13.

Manager Clint Hurdle is convinced Jones' production will come.

"We're just going to keep getting him out there and getting him at-bats," Hurdle said. "The timing will come. He can hit. I don't have any worries about him."

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Pirates Spring Training 2011

Pirates Spring Training 2011

Images from Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Florida.

Additional Information:

Jones by the numbers

Here are Garrett Jones' career statistics in the majors:

*2007: 31 games, 77 at-bats, 16 hits, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 5 runs batted in, 6 walks, 20 strikeouts, .208 batting average

2009: 82 games, 314 at-bats, 92 hits, 21 doubles, 1 triple, 21 home runs, 44 runs batted in, 40 walks, 76 strikeouts, .293 batting average

2010: 158 games, 592 at-bats, 146 hits, 34 doubles, 1 triple, 21 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 53 walks, 123 strikeouts, .247 batting average

*Spent 2007-08 with the Minnesota Twins




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