Garrett Jones leads the Pirates with 20 home runs and 77 RBIs.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A year ago, Garrett Jones was the Legend, emerging from the minors at age 28 to tear up the National League for 21 home runs in 82 games.
Through half of this season, he looked even better in some ways, his average at .292, the on-base percentage at .363 and plenty enough power. That was on June 25, his season peak.
Since then ...
"It's been a struggle," Jones acknowledged Tuesday afternoon.
From June 26 onward, a span of 75 games, Jones has batted .202 -- 57 for 279 -- with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs. The home run total would appear to be fine, but the rest are well below what any team would expect from the heart of the order. Overall, he is at .246 while leading the team with 20 home runs and 77 RBIs. That includes a .265 average against right-handers, .216 against left-handers.
That body of work prompted general manager Neal Huntington to say two weeks ago in Cincinnati that the Pirates will consider Jones in a platoon role in planning the 2011 roster.
Jones read that, to be sure.
"Yeah. My production was down this year. But nothing's set in stone," Jones said. "I think they're just looking at different options for next year. For me, I've got to go into the offseason and really work on my swing, find a way to get out of some of these funks I've had. I'll come in prepared for next season and, whatever decision they make ... I'm going to make it hard on them to do something like that."
Jones returned to the lineup Tuesday night after missing the weekend to a sore right shoulder, the result of two diving defensive attempts last week. The shoulder, specifically the joint, has caused him discomfort in the past. But he firmly declined to use it as an excuse for the second-half dropoff, saying it did not bother him until the first of those dives Thursday in New York.
John Bowker started for the eighth time in nine games, this one in right field, as part of management's continuing plan to see if he can be part of the solution at right field and/or first base next year.
"He's done a good job for us," manager John Russell said. "It's an intriguing bat."
Russell said Bowker -- as well as Andy LaRoche -- will spell Jones on occasion at first, in part because of Jones' shoulder.
• Outfielder Lastings Milledge, who will not be cleared for baseball-type activity until next weekend at the soonest, sounded pessimistic about playing again this season -- "I don't think so," he said -- though that still is not official.
• Jeff Karstens, out with shoulder fatigue, is scheduled to pitch off a mound today, after which a decision will be made whether to activate him. He would pitch only in relief.
• The Pirates completed their Arizona Fall League assignments by adding pitchers Justin Wilson, Brian Leach and Aaron Pribanic to the Mesa roster. Wilson, the playoff MVP for the Class AA Eastern League champion Altoona Curve, probably will be the only one used in a starting role, director of player development Kyle Stark said.
• Catcher Jason Jaramillo will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.