'Sky's the limit' for prospect Jones
First-round pick doing what it takes to get to bigs quicker
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Adam Jones reflects on one of his first games as a center fielder, shakes his head and laughs.
"I caught a ball and threw it into the stands, about 10 rows deep, on a line," Jones said. "It almost hit someone. It's a good thing not that many people really show up for those Fall League games."
Jones hasn't had much to worry about since then.
Since being taken as the Mariners' first-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Jones has cruised through the farm system, advancing to Class A short-season Everett later in '03, playing all of '04 with Class A Wisconsin and splitting the '05 season between Class A Inland Empire (Calif.) and Double-A San Antonio, where he batted a combined .296 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs in 128 games.
Jones, who at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds is one of the organization's best athletes, was slated to be a shortstop of the future until Yuniesky Betancourt came over from Cuba and seized that position at the big league level.
Once the Mariners saw how gifted Betancourt was in the field and how much potential he had at the plate, their plans for Jones changed in a hurry.
"We sat him down and told him that the best chance he had at playing in the Major Leagues the quickest was to switch to center field," said Dave Brundage, the Mariners' new Triple-A skipper who managed Jones in San Antonio last year.
"It wasn't just a compliment to Yuniesky. It was a compliment to Adam because the organization caters to the Major League club. We want to see a guy like Adam Jones in a Seattle Mariner uniform as soon as possible because we think very highly of him and we're trying to win a World Series."
Brundage said Jones didn't balk at the decision at all, and part of that might have had something to do with how the coach presented it to him.
"I put it in pretty simple terms," Brundage said. "I asked him, 'Do you want to make two grand in the Minors or start out with $360,000 in the big leagues?' Those are terms that are pretty easy to understand."
And Jones understood.
"I'll play any position to get to the big leagues," Jones said. "When an organization tells you that you can get to the Major Leagues quicker by doing something, you do it and you don't really ask questions."
The only questions Jones started asking were related to his new craft.
"It's deeper angles on balls, it's feeling comfortable running to a spot and catching the ball, and it gets easier every day," Jones said. "I'm going to think about defense mostly and not worry about hitting. I have a lot of work to do."
The Mariners are eager to watch him work.
Jones earned an invitation to big league camp for the second straight year and has a chance to make the Triple-A Tacoma club and work with Brundage again. If he makes that team and tears up the Pacific Coast League, who knows what might happen in September if the Mariners need a bat?
He says that's the attitude he's bringing into this camp.
"You always want to move up, no matter what level you're at," Jones said. "I just want to keep making that next step. One thing I'm definitely not going to do is act like I deserve anything. I don't deserve anything yet."
That's why Jones says he won't be upset if he starts the season back in Double-A.
"If they send me there, how can I complain?" Jones said. "I'm 20 years old."
And that's the fact the Mariners keep remembering and keep getting excited about.
"He's got the chance to end up being a real good center fielder," general manager Bill Bavasi said. "He needs work on balls over his head, but what new outfielder doesn't? He's got a plus arm, he's a bright kid and he's got a good approach."
Brundage didn't have a problem expanding on those observations.
"He can run, he can throw, he has great instincts, and he's still learning," Brundage said. "Offensively, we think he'll hit and hit with power. He still hasn't filled out yet, so he'll get stronger.
"The sky's the limit for this kid. That's how good of an athlete he is."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.