As he has become more comfortable at the top of the Mariners’ lineup, and as he has reached base more consistently, James Jones has made things more uncomfortable for opposing pitchers.
The rookie center fielder stole another base Tuesday afternoon during the Mariners’ 6-1 victory over San Diego, his fourth steal in two days and his team-leading 11th of the season.
“He gets better every day, and every day is a new adventure, a new journey for him,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s a very intelligent, bright young man. Very talented. Tremendous athlete. So the combination of all those things — he’s starting to make it look easy.”
Jones had hits in his first three at-bats Tuesday against fellow left-hander Eric Stults. He stole second base in the fifth inning, despite a pickoff throw to first by Stults. With one out and Robinson Cano at the plate, Jones advanced to third on a pitch in the dirt.
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Cano then hit a two-run home run to extend the Mariners’ lead to 4-1.
“He changes the game a lot,” Cano said of Jones. “Now in those type of situations, the pitcher is trying to be perfect and that’s when they leave a pitch over the plate. It’s pretty good for me — that’s what I want. I want him in scoring position. Anything I hit, he’s going to score.”
In 21 games, Jones is hitting .291 with a .327 on-base percentage. Over his past 10 games, he is hitting .349 with six runs, one triple, three RBI and five steals.
“It’s definitely my goal out there, to get the other team to focus on me,” Jones said. “And hopefully they don’t execute their pitches to the batter hitting behind me. That’s my goal, and I want to keep doing that.”
Hisashi Iwakuma did not throw his scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday as he recovers from a stiff neck. The Mariners right-hander instead did light throwing in the outfield before the game.
He remains scheduled to start Friday at Kansas City.
“As I speak now, he will not miss a start,” McClendon said Tuesday morning.
• Justin Smoak did more jogging in the outfield Tuesday as trainer Rick Griffin watched closely. Smoak, Corey Hart and Michael Saunders are all scheduled to report to Class AAA Tacoma on Wednesday to begin rehab assignments this week.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364
On Twitter: @a_jude