Mariners rookie James Jones didn’t have to do much to earn some praise from veteran teammate Robinson Cano the other day.
Jones, the 25-year-old outfielder making his sixth appearance in the Mariners’ No. 99 uniform Thursday night, came off the bench and delivered a seventh-inning sacrifice bunt against the Royals. After the game, Cano approached Jones and offered encouragement.
“Those are the things that are going to keep you up here,” Cano said he told Jones of the bunt.
The next night, Jones had a pinch-hit double — his first career extra-base hit — that led to the Mariners’ only run in a 6-1 defeat. By Saturday afternoon, Jones was penned in as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter for the first time.
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The encouragement from Cano, Jones said, meant a lot.
“He was just saying, ‘Know what type of player you are. Don’t try to do too much,’ ” Jones said. “And that helped relax me. Because I’m not going to go up there and try to hit a home run. I’m going to go up there and try get on base and hit the ball hard. I’m going to keep it simple. That really settled me.”
After the chat Thursday night, Cano was impressed to see Jones doing extra bunting before the game Friday.
“All those things you can pass to the kids, it’s always good,” Cano said of the advice he received from veterans when he was a young player with the Yankees. “I was the same way. When you hear from the big guy, it means a lot.”
Jones, the lanky, 6-foot-4 center fielder, had a four-game stint with the Mariners in April — recording an infield hit in his first major league at-bat — and then got recalled again from Class AAA Tacoma last Monday. He had five hits in his first 11 at-bats (a .455 average) with two strikeouts, one walk and one steal on his only attempt.
He walked in his second at-bat against Royals starter Yordano Ventura on Saturday.
“He’s the prototypical-type leadoff guy. We’ll give him his chance and see what he can do,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said, adding: “I like what I see. I don’t think he’s overmatched at the plate. He has the ability to put the bat on the ball. He gets great jumps in the outfield. I’m impressed.”
For Jones, playing in the majors is still a “surreal” experience.
“I still catch myself looking around, looking up at the stadium and taking everything in,” he said. “But I’m definitely having fun with it.”
Cano said he likes Jones in the leadoff spot.
“Oh yeah, I like him,” Cano said. “The guy can fly. He’s going to be good.”
• Saturday was Kyle Seager Bat Night, but the Mariners third baseman, battling the flu, was out of the lineup for a second consecutive day. Willie Bloomquist again replaced him and batted ninth.
• Right fielder Michael Saunders left the game in the third inning with a hyperextended left knee. He is day to day, according to the team. Saunders had tripped while chasing a Mike Moustakas triple in the top of the third. He finished that half inning before being replaced in right by Stefen Romero.
• Crew chief Jeff Nelson took over as the home-plate umpire in the top of the fourth inning. He replaced Scott Barry, who left the game after he was hit in the right wrist by a wild Ventura fastball in the second inning.
• With a single in the first, Cano extended his streak of reaching base to 19 games.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364
On Twitter: @a_jude