08/04/09 6:59 PM ET
Pirates' Jones is NL Rookie of the Month
Given an opportunity, outfielder/first baseman responds
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
After four-and-a-half seasons in Triple-A and one brief Major League stint with the Twins in 2007, Jones was handed an opportunity by the Pirates at the start of July and parlayed that into an everyday role almost immediately.
By the end of the month -- one in which he led the National League in home runs and slugging percentage -- Jones was the talk of a clubhouse that was begging for some sort of positive distraction from all the simultaneous player movement.
On Tuesday, Jones was recognized for his stellar July by being named the National League Rookie of the Month. The award is voted on by baseball writers and broadcasters across the country.
"To be up here and be able to have success early means a lot," Jones said. "I've kind of established myself early and have gotten an opportunity to play every day. I felt good when I got up here and just tried to do some damage."
Jones, who took Eric Hinske's roster spot after Hinske was traded to the Yankees, took the league by storm upon his arrival. He fell a single short of the cycle in just his second game and went through one stretch around the All-Star break in which he homered five times in four games. That included one shot over the batter's eye in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, a feat that only slugger Ryan Howard had accomplished before.
"It's outstanding," Russell said of the recognition for Jones. "He had a great month, obviously. He's maintained that pace, getting his hits and is playing very well for us. For your first time in the big leagues, to be able to win that kind of award, that's a very special thing he'll never forget. I know he wants to build off of that."
Jones finished the month hitting .310 with seven doubles, 10 homers, 17 RBIs, five stolen bases and a .700 slugging percentage. He was also strongly considered for the league's Player of the Month Award, though that went to St. Louis' Ryan Ludwick, who hit .340 with six home runs, 18 runs scored and 28 RBIs.
"It's been only a month," Jones said, downplaying some of his immediate success. "I'm just appreciating every day, being able to come to the ballpark, being able to put on the uniform, being able to be in the lineup every day. I just take it one game at a time."
For Jones, his July numbers put him position to assume an everyday spot for the Pirates, either in the outfield or at first base. It's an opportunity that the 28-year-old had not been given up to this point in his career. He spent three seasons with Minnesota's Triple-A team in Rochester, N.Y., and had just a short callup by the Twins in '07.
Jones signed with the Pirates as a Minor League free agent this offseason and likely would have made the team after a strong Spring Training had Pittsburgh not already been overloaded with left-handed-hitting outfielders. As a result, Jones had to start the year in Triple-A again, where he hit .307 with 12 homers in 72 games. Then he got the call.
"You hope that you get an opportunity," said Jones, who was 3-for-9 in August entering Tuesday. "You hope that a team sees you and likes the way you play. That's the only thing you can do in Triple-A, go out and play hard and hope somebody sees you. I felt like being called up with the Twins, I felt like I could get back up here and at least compete for a job."
Jones is the first Pirates player to earn Rookie of the Month honors since Zach Duke did so in both July and August 2005.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.