Jones getting opportunity to prove worth

Jones getting opportunity to prove worth

Jones getting opportunity to prove worth
PITTSBURGH -- Garrett Jones is likely to remain in the organization into next year. He's somewhat versatile, an intriguing power threat and will come at a reasonable cost in 2012, even though he will be a first-year arbitration-eligible player this offseason.

What role Jones will come back in, however, remains very much up for debate.

Two-thirds of the way into this season it looked as if the Pirates were poised to move on from using Jones as an everyday player. In fact, the team added a first baseman (Derrek Lee) and corner outfielder (Ryan Ludwick) at the Trade Deadline largely because Jones was unreliable to produce regularly at either position.

But since the team made those Deadline acquisitions, Jones has done nothing but reach base consistently. Highlighted by his walk-off homer in Tuesday's 5-4, 11-inning win over the Cardinals, Jones is batting .333 with six doubles, four homers and eight RBIs this month. He's going to get a chance to continue the roll, too, as the Pirates plan to use him as the team's first baseman with Lee on the disabled list.

And make no mistake -- how Jones fares during these last two months will be critical in the Pirates' evaluations going into next season.

"I've been given a great opportunity here, a chance to play on a regular basis," Jones said. "It's just up to me to contribute to the team and to show the coaches and the staff that I can help the team win on a consistent basis. I think the next few months are definitely going to stick in their head going into the offseason."

Jones began the year splitting time in right field with Matt Diaz, though neither player performed up to expectations. And now, with Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Alex Presley appearing to be the immediate answers in the outfield, Jones isn't likely to find all that much playing time there.

He could be a fit at first base beyond this year, but that will only happen if Jones can do enough over the last six weeks of the year to convince the Pirates to entrust him with a starting role next year.

"I'm getting to see what everyone has seen. I haven't seen that [production before now]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's continued to persevere. He wants to play. He wants reps wherever he can get them. We've had a couple very meaningful conversations, and he believes there's no more in there."