Garrett Jones might as well join the list of Pittsburgh sports stars along with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Hines Ward, James Harrison, and Andrew McCutchen. Jones has had a slow start for the Pirates this season, hitting .225 with 3 HR and 10 RBI. But with last night's walk-off single against intimidating Cincinnati Reds closer Francisco Cordero, Jones is ready to become one of the Pirates' best-known players.
We all know about Jones' incredible rookie season with the Pirates last year. He hit .293 with 21 HR and 44 RBI in 82 games last year. In barely more than half of a season, Jones led the Pirates in home runs.
He has entered stardom for the Pirates ball-club (not saying a whole lot there). But Garrett Jones has not always enjoyed this type of success.
Jones was drafted in the 14th round by the Atlanta Braves in the 1999 MLB draft. He didn't exactly flourish in the Braves' minor league system, only hitting 6 home runs in his total time playing for the Braves' rookie ball affiliates. Jones was released by the Braves in 2001.
The Minnesota Twins signed him in 2002. Jones moved up to the Twins' AA club by 2004. At the beginning of 2005, Jones started AAA ball with the infamous Rochester Red Wings.
He stayed with Rochester for 3 more years.
It's not that Jones wasn't productive. He hit a total of 119 HR playing for the Red Wings. Jones was good. But some people in the Twins organization were just better.
Jones is primarily a right-fielder and a first-baseman. The Twins' right-fielder is Michael Cuddyer. Their first-baseman is perennial all-star Justin Morneau. The Twins did not have any room for Jones in the major leagues.
So that's how he became a 28 year old rookie. After 2008, and 15 total games with the Twins, Jones signed a minor league contract with the Pirates. He earned an invitation to spring training. Jones had a very impressive performance in his 09 spring run, but he did not get a spot on the Pirates' roster.
After the Pirates traded Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees in late June 2009, Jones was called up to the majors to take the roster spot vacated by Hinske. Jones went off on a tear, hitting .310 with 10 HR and 17 RBI in the month of July. He was named NL rookie of the month for July 2009.
Jones ended up hitting .293 with 21 HR and 44 RBI last year.
His most impressive performance this year was on Opening Day against the Dodgers. Jones hit 2 home runs in his first two at bats, the first one being off of Dodger fire-baller Vincente Padilla. That one was pulled over the right-field fence of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River. Not wanting to be dubbed as a pull-happy hitter, Jones sliced one just over the left field fence against Padilla the next time up.
And you know about his performance last night, with his walk-off single.
Even though Jones has gotten off to a slow start this season, he is a catalyst for the Pirates offense. He has the most power on the Pirates. His long-ball power and slick outfield play has made him one of the best players on the Pirates.
Time will tell if Jones' ability is for real, or he just had one impressive rookie year. But more walk-off hits and tape-measure home runs will make him a folk hero in Pittsburgh pretty soon.