Pirates Notebook: Jones being pushed for National League player of the week

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PHOENIX -- The man, the myth in the making, that is Garrett Jones could conceivably today add another new bauble to his rapidly growing portfolio: National League player of the week.

The Pirates nominated the July-hot slugger for the award that Major League Baseball selects and announces later today. It has been roughly 56 weeks since a club member won such a honor, with Ryan Doumit earning it June 9-15, 2008.

Jones yesterday was 1 for 4 and finished off a week in which he hit .464 (13 for 28) with 3 home runs, 6 RBIs, 3 walks, a .516 on-base percentage and a 1.000 slugging percentage.

"I'm just trying to have fun," Jones continues to say about his 21-game start to a Pirates career that manager John Russell expects to last considerably longer than the 10 homers, 15 RBIs and .345 average he has crafted since being recalled June 30 after the Nyjer Morgan-Sean Burnett trade.

"Is he going to continue to hit like this?" Russell asked rhetorically. "I don't know. People a week ago said he couldn't. But he still hit. So who knows?

"I think the biggest thing, no matter what, even if he starts to not get as many hits, he's still going to be that threat at the plate because he can drive the ball. Some of his mistakes are home runs. The [line-drive homer] he hit [Friday] wasn't hit hard, but he didn't get that ball. That's what scary. That ball was a rocket. But you could tell off the bat he didn't really hit it that well. That's the kind of power he has: Some of his mistake hits can turn into big hits."

Jones became the fastest player in the Pirates' steeped history to reach 10 homers -- in his first 19 games. That came Friday on that line-drive shot to right field, his first Pirates homer with a teammate aboard.

Yesterday, after Andrew McCutchen and Freddy Sanchez opened with strikeouts against Arizona's Max Scherzer, Jones calmly sliced an 0-2 pitch down the third-base hole created by an infield shift for the left-handed batter who has turned into one of the major league's most ferocious hitters this month. Russell contends that the 6-foot-4 Jones, 28, a career-minor league who seemed to stall the past five seasons at Class AAA, should be a candidate for NL player of the month, too.

"With Garrett, he's got such a simple approach. That helps him," Russell said. "For a big guy, he doesn't have a lot of movement in his swing. It's pretty direct. It's pretty compact. The bat speed and strength he has, it enables him to stay back. I'm really impressed with his two-strike approach. He's got some hitter savvy in him, too.

"[Opponents] are going to start taking notice. Obviously, they're really going to try breaking him down video-wise. How to pitch him. Start putting shifts on him. Try to get in his head.

"We haven't had too many power hitters like that. He's interesting to watch."

Flash of Jack in left field

The early going Saturday night, when it was still a scoreless game before Arizona fully embarked on a 7-0 rout, saw the Pirates perform a handful of defensive gems. There was Doumit diving to tag out Miguel Montero at home plate after recovering a Steve Pearce throw that sailed over him, allowing Justin Upton. There was Jack Wilson making a stop on his knees and diving to tag out Stephen Drew at second base.

The best play of the bunch was crafted in left field by Wilson.

Wilson followed Augie Ojeda's double into left-field foul territory, where it took a crazy carom off the stands that jut out and bounded back into mid-left field. Outfielder Brandon Moss missed the carom, but Wilson didn't. He grabbed the bouncing ball and threw out Ojeda trying to reach third.

It wasn't Wilson's finest defensive play of the year by a long shot, but it might have been the longest he traveled for one. Shoot, should he get an outfield assist for it?

Buried treasure

• Pirates outfielders lead the majors with 28 assists. Not bad for a club that had 27 all last season.

Phil Dumatrait allowed four runs, two of them earned, on four hits, including a home run, in five innings of a rehab assignment with Class A State College last night. He struck out four.

Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog . Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com .


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