Disabato: Garrett Jones ready to deliver in a pinch for Pittsburgh Pirates
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato October 8, 2013 9:32PM
Garrett Jones, of the Pittsburgh Pirates | Getty Images
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:30AM
Garrett Jones has had the same dream for more than a week:
With the game on the line, he steps to the plate and wallops a game-winning homer, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a playoff victory.
Not just any dinger. He’d prefer a walk-off.
“That’s my dream,” Jones, a 1999 Andrew graduate, said by phone Saturday. “Hitting a walk-off homer to win it.”
Dreaming is what Jones, a first baseman/outfielder for the Pirates, has been relegated to since the acquisitions of Marlon Byrd, an outfielder, and Justin Morneau, a first baseman, in late August.
With the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals tied two games apiece and set to play a decisive Game 5 Wednesday in their National League Division Series, Jones might still fulfill his dream.
To have it occur in the Pirates’ biggest game in 21 years would make it that much sweeter for Jones.
“I’m just waiting for my chance,” said Jones, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound left-handed-hitting slugger who’s in his fifth season with the Pirates. “I’m working on pinch-hitting. It’s a totally different mind-set. You have to be ready to swing at the first good pitch. I just want that chance.”
With the game Wednesday in St. Louis, a walk-off can’t happen. However, any type of contribution from the Tinley Park native would provide a sense of accomplishment.
Jones struck out Monday pinch-hitting during the Pirates 2-1 loss that forced Game 5.
It’s been that type of season for Jones, who finished with a .233 average, 26 doubles, 15 homers and 51 RBI. A decent season, until you consider his numbers from 2012: .274 average, 28 doubles, 27 homers and 86 RBI.
Jones, 32, is as perplexed as anyone with his struggles.
“It’s been frustrating at times,” Jones said. “I was coming off a good year. I’ve been trying to find my swing from last year. I got it in my head (this season) that I needed to hit for more power. I was trying to hit balls out of the park and instead I was hitting a lot of ground balls. I never got my swing back on a consistent basis.
“We had an opportunity to get Byrd and Morneau and got them. They (management) wanted to spark the offense and unfortunately, it came at the expense of me playing.”
The irony in all of it is that the date the Pirates acquired Morneau from the Minnesota Twins — Aug. 31 — Jones hours earlier had one of his best games of the season: 3-for-4, a homer and four RBI during a 5-0 win over the Cardinals.
“Bad timing,” Jones said. “Who knows if I get hot earlier if they make that trade.”
It’s unlikely, considering Jones pretty much had delivered his entire career with the Pirates. A huge fan favorite, he’s clubbed 100 homers with Pittsburgh and is the only Pirate to hit a ball out of PNC Park (opened 2001) on the fly into the Allegheny River. Being a reserve isn’t the path he imagined.
Still, being a part of this Pirates resurgence has been one of the thrills of his life, a notch or two behind the birth of his son, Jaxon, who’s now 18 months old.
Jaxon Jones. How’s that for a big-league-ready name?
Jones was in awe like the rest of America during the Pirates one-game wild-card win Sept. 30 over the Cincinnati Reds. PNC Park, one of baseball’s finest, was a madhouse. It was a far cry from when Jones started his career in Pittsburgh, playing amid thousands of empty seats.
“I had the chills,” Jones said. “It had to be intimidating for the Reds. The fans here are great and have always been great to me.”
Jones is aware this could be his final season with the Pirates. It will come down to a desire to play every day and economics — he made $4.5 million this season for the frugal Pirates and is arbitration-eligible.
“I just want an opportunity to play every day,” said Jones, who resides in Frankfort during the offseason with his wife and son. “I still have plenty of years of baseball left. I feel great. Right now, I’m just concentrating on helping us win games. We’ve got the team to go all the way.”