PITTSBURGH -- Pirates management shored up right field and first base late in the regular season, which wasn't a comfortable turn of events for Pittsburgh mainstay Garrett Jones -- who happens to play first base and right field.
With Marlon Byrd providing immediate leadership and production in right field after being traded from the Mets and Justin Morneau finding his bearings after coming over from the Twins to play first, Jones, 32, has seen his playing time evaporate. He hasn't had an at-bat in the postseason, either in the National League Wild Card victory over the Reds or through two games of the NL Division Series against the Cardinals.
Jones, however, could easily be thrust into important duty. In 17 regular-season games against the Cardinals, Jones has hit .321 (17-for-52), compiled a .410 on-base percentage, and has three home runs, five doubles and 10 RBIs. He has made just seven starts since Sept. 1, but dreams of going from forgotten to unforgettable. All it takes is a few big postseason moments.
"Every night, every guy that's on the bench right now waiting to come in, they're thinking of coming up, getting that big hit, a home run, whatever it takes -- a walkoff home run at home to help the team win a game," Jones said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing you may never experience again, to get in the playoffs and be able to do that. Every day, when we go to bed, the last thought on our minds is just a positive thought."
Jones would rather have multiple opportunities every game to have his dream moments, but he finished the regular season hitting .233 with a .289 on-base percentage. He had 15 home runs and 51 RBIs, but he didn't hit with the consistency the Pirates needed in their run to the postseason. Manager Clint Hurdle has weighed the strong numbers against the Cardinals against the overall down season, and his verdict on Jones is illustrated by the fact his name has not been in the lineup.
"He had a big, big time against the Cardinals," Hurdle said. "There's been a couple of clubs he did club this year. Overall it's been a challenging season offensively, and that was the reason for the trade to go get Byrd. Garrett just continued to work hard. He's continued to get himself in a position to be able to add when called upon whether it be a spot-start or a pinch hit off the bench. That's the reality, sport.
"Sometimes you have had a hand in your own regulation playing time, as I found out through my years of playing and non playing. There was really nowhere else to look other than the abilities and the successes, or lack of success, that I had. And I think it can be cleansing for a player to actually go through that and have that experience as well. Because at the end of the day, if you're pointing fingers at other places, there's always three pointing back at yourself. And Garrett has handled this very professionally."
Hurdle said he has had direct conversations with Jones and others affected by the deals. Jones said he understands his shortcomings, and the Pirates' success and the possible chances to make a postseason mark make the demotion easier to take. But he wants to earn back the chance to start next season.
"I've got a little mechanical issue, where balls I should've been driving into the gaps or for home runs, I'm coming around the ball and hitting hard ground balls to second base," Jones said. "I'm still hitting them hard, but they were ground balls and outs. That just hurt my consistency. I wasn't getting the big games, the 3-for-4s.
"It's a mental thing a little bit, but mechanically, I never got out of the funk consistently. That's the goal, to consistently get my swing off, be able to drive the ball consistently and I'll be in there. I've proven I can be an everyday guy."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less