Jones on promotion, popularity, playing Angels and more

Jahmai Jones is the 54th player used by the Orioles this season, his return to the majors including a start tonight at second base. He’s facing the organization that traded him on Feb. 2 for pitcher Alex Cobb.

The Orioles kept Jones at Triple-A Norfolk to work on his defense at second. He had to wait for the call, with no complaints.

“It really allowed me to really just focus on things down at Norfolk that I felt like I needed to work on before I came up here, and it really just allowed me to go play,” he said this afternoon.

“Regardless of what happened, I knew that I was going to be thought about throughout the season, so I just tried to stay ready throughout that Triple-A season so whenever I got the call I was ready to go. But honestly, it was just a lot of fun. I loved playing in Norfolk and I loved the guys that I was centered around and the coaching staff down there, so it was a lot of fun being there. But ultimately, I wanted to be here, so definitely glad I got the call.”

The batting average dipped to .238 with a .746 OPS, but the Orioles were basing their evaluations more on his glove.

Jones said he “definitely” believes he’s a more accomplished second baseman since the season began.

“When it comes to just getting game reps, that’s all you can really do to get your feet under you,” he said. “You can take a million fungoes and you can take a million ground balls, but nothing simulates a game-like situation being put in front of you, so I definitely think so.”

Fans on social media have been clamoring for Jones’ arrival, balking at the promotions of other players ahead of him, including Ramón Urías and Domingo Leyba. They weren’t buying the club’s explanation about his defense and the desire to keep him off the minor league shuttle.

“I heard some stuff,” said Jones, who got the call yesterday morning from Tides manager Gary Kendall as he prepared to go to the store after eating breakfast with roommate Tyler Nevin. “A few of my friends would send tweets here and there, like kind of the funny things that they saw on Twitter, but I didn’t know that it was so widely spread until recently brought to my attention. I’m definitely glad I’m here and definitely hoping that I can do my job and do what the fans want me to do.”

Jones walked on the field for his round of batting practice and headed over to the Angels’ side to hug and chat with a former teammate. The ideal timing of his Orioles debut isn’t lost on him.

“It’s something you definitely think about when it’s on the schedule and you see it’s the club that I was with previously,” he said. “My buddies who are up in the bigs for the Angels right now were texting me like, ‘Hey man, what do you think? Do you think it’s going to happen? We’re coming to you guys, this would be awesome.’ And thankfully it happened, so it will be fun.

“That whole coaching staff over there I’ve known and made relationships over there, obviously, with the players, PR people, everybody within that Angels organization. They saw me as a 17-year-old kid and now they’re seeing me across the field for the Orioles. It will be fun. Either way I’m about to have a good time playing.”

A team on an 18-game losing streak could use a jolt of energy. Maybe Jones is the guy to provide it.

“When I first received the phone call, I was nothing short of excited to get up here and be in this locker room,” he said. “We have a lot of great players, a lot of guys I really do feel like I can feed off from a knowledge standpoint and a baseball standpoint. So, from that I was excited for the opportunity to learn, and on top of just being who I am - I feel like I’m a happy-to-lucky kind of guy regardless - so hopefully that just translates into my game here, and whatever happens from there happens. But I’m definitely looking to have some fun while I’m up here.”

Said manager Brandon Hyde: “I think that anytime young players come with energy, it’s positive. We’re scuffling and we’re in a tough spot right now, and hopefully Jam can give us a little jump start and give our club some energy and play well. That would be huge for us.”

Thumbnail image for martin-richie-off-balance-throw-black-fenway-sidebar.jpgThe Orioles optioned infielder Richie Martin to Norfolk yesterday after he appeared in 15 games, going 10-for-44 and committing three errors. A misplay on Saturday was ruled a hit.

“I think Richie needs Triple-A at-bats and he needs to work on his swing and offensive ... just his game,” Hyde said.

“He hasn’t played much. Richie’s got a ton of tools, incredibly athletic, becoming a better defender at short, and now it’s really just to learn the speed up here offensively and be able to be on time with the fastball and to be able to make hard, consistent contact. So, we felt like that going to get Triple-A at-bats would be the best thing for him from a development standpoint.”

Maikel Franco was designated for assignment yesterday, unable to make it through a full season with the club after signing a one-year, $800,000 contract. Franco slashed .210/.253/.355 with 22 doubles, 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 403 plate appearances and was increasingly slower getting up the first base line.

“He just never got going offensively,” Hyde said. “Waiting for him to get hot, waiting for him to really impact the game for us offensively and just be a contributor. He just never got on a really good streak. I thought he did a fine job for us defensively. He’s a pro, he’s great in the clubhouse, he’s a good guy. Just offensively, it seemed like he never hit his stride.”

Urías is starting at third base tonight, but he’s going to move around the infield, covering every position except first.

“With the third base situation, (Kelvin) Gutiérrez is here, I’ve got Urías that will play third base, also,” Hyde said. “If Urías’ leg is good, he’ll play all three spots. I’ll be rotating Ramón around. (Jorge) Mateo will be rotating. He’ll get more shortstop time now. I still want to play him at second base, also. It’s going to be a little mix and match.”

Reliever Hunter Harvey remains with Norfolk to continue his injury rehab assignment following two appearances. The Orioles aren’t ready to reinstate him from the injured list.

“We’re going to have him throw down there another time or two. We’ll see,” Hyde said. “We’re still evaluating after every appearance he makes down there, but right now he’s going to throw again and we’ll reassess after his next outing.

“It’s just more of recovery. He hasn’t pitched much, so just getting him another appearance, just re-evaluating after every appearance.”

Hyde said again that he’d wait until after tonight’s game to announce Wednesday’s starter. The spot opened with Jorge López moving to the bullpen, where he tossed a scoreless inning Sunday with two strikeouts.

Chris Ellis is a candidate and would be the 55th player used this season, three short of the club record set in 2019.

For the Angels
Shohei Ohtani DH
David Fletcher 2B
Phil Gosselin 3B
Jared Walsh 1B
José Iglesias SS
Max Stassi C
Brandon Marsh CF
Jo Adell LF
Juan Lagares RF

Dylan Bundy RHP

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