SAN DIEGO -- Mariners rookie speedster James Jones has made an imprint on games in many different ways in his first two months in the Majors, heading into Wednesday's series opener at Petco Park with a team-leading 11 stolen bases, a .291 batting average and gap-to-gap defense in center field.
But one of the subtle bonuses the 25-year-old provides is his ability to put pressure on opposing pitchers, an attribute noted by teammate Robinson Cano after the Mariners' second baseman slugged a two-run homer in Tuesday's 6-1 win over the Padres at Safeco Field.
Jones singled leading off the fifth inning, stole second and then hustled into third on a wild pitch on a ball that barely got behind catcher Rene Rivera. With Padres pitcher Eric Stults worrying about Jones, Cano proceeded to get a pitch he could hit and drove it into the right-field seats.
Cano said Jones' looming presence on the basepaths definitely played a factor in that at-bat.
"Oh yeah," Cano said with a smile. "When you've got a guy at second base and you know he can fly around the bases, the last thing you want is him to get to third. You could see that ball just right behind the catcher and he went to third base. He changed the game a lot. Because now in that situation the pitcher is trying to be perfect and he left a pitch out over the plate. For me, that's what I want. I want him in scoring position because if you do anything, he's going to score."
And that is just what Jones loves to hear as the youngster from New York looks to find his niche in the Majors.
"It's definitely my goal out there for the other team to focus on me, and hopefully they don't execute their pitches to the batter that's hitting behind me," Jones said. "That's my goal and I want to keep doing that."
But Jones wasn't ready to take too much credit for his well-paid teammate's success.
"Cano is a great hitter," said the rookie. "He's going to look for a pitch he can drive. I'm just happy I got to third so it made it tougher for the pitcher to execute."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.