Adam Jones is still getting accustomed to his new home in right field, but in Saturday’s 3-2 extra-inning loss to the New York Yankees, Jones recorded his second outfield assist from right field in his past three games.
In the second inning, Jones threw out Miguel Andújar attempting to stretch a single into a double. That out — which marked Jones’ 100th career outfield assist — was important, and it might have saved a run, because the next batter, Luke Voit, hit a solo homer off David Hess.
Jones also threw out the Toronto Blue Jays’ Billy McKinney at the plate in Wednesday night’s game, making a one-hop throw to catcher Austin Wynns, who reached across the plate to tag McKinney.
In 29 games in right field, Jones has nearly as many outfield assists as he did in 105 games in center field (three) before shifting positions to make room for Cedric Mullins to be groomed as the team’s center fielder of the future.
While Jones’ assist numbers have declined over the past three years in center field — he doesn’t have more than five in any season over that stretch — he had 13 outfield assists in 2015, 11 in a Gold Glove season in 2013, a career-high 16 assists in 2011 and 12 in 2010.
Now getting used to a new position, keeping base runners honest involves a new set of challenges for Jones.
“I’ve talked to Adam a lot about the different angles,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He never thought it was going to be easy. It’s like taking a guy from shortstop and asking him to play second because of the angles, the looks, the balls of the bat. And left field is completely different than right field.
“There’s so many variables that people don’t get. The runner gets an extra half-step from right field because of the time it takes to catch the ball and [turn], versus left field when you’re catching it and in line [with the plate]. So it’s worth a half-step. That’s why right fielders very seldom lead the league in assists. I led the league in assists because everybody ran on me. I knew I was going to get some opportunities to throw. The mound comes into play. It’s tough.”
While the Orioles have made no intention of keeping Jones — who becomes a free agent in the offseason — beyond this season, Showalter said Jones will only get better in right field once he’s able to have a spring training at the position.
“I can tell you Adam, after a spring training in right field, will be even better,” Showalter said.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy will start Monday night’s series opener in Boston and right-hander Yefry Ramírez will start in Wednesday night’s finale at Fenway Park, but Showalter wanted to wait until after Sunday’s game in New York to name a Tuesday night’s starter.
Unsure how long right-hander Alex Cobb could go Sunday after returning from 10 days off to allow a blister to heal, Showalter wanted to the see how his bullpen would be taxed before committing to a starter.
Cobb lasted just four pitches, unable to record an out before leaving with apparent blister problem. Showalter didn’t announce a Tuesday starter after Sunday’s game.
“You do manage a game trying to win, but you’re also managing trying to make sure you have enough bullets to cover [innings],” Showalter said before the game.
Left-hander Sean Gilmartin, who pitched well in a 4 2/3-inning relief outing last week against Toronto, would be one candidate if he’s not used Sunday, Showalter said before the game; Gilmartin wasn’t used. Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, who started Wednesday against Toronto and threw four scoreless innings, could also be a consideration.