Heading into the 2013 season, Paul Mainieri expected big things out of second baseman JaCoby Jones. While Jones started the year on a hot note, he eventually began to struggle at the plate. However, there are several bright spots for Jones on the season. He has already exceeded his career high in walks for a season, so getting on base has not been an issue for him. While he leads LSU with 17 walks so far in 2013, Jones also leads the team in strikeouts with 16, a problem that he has struggled with over the course of his career.
In LSU's most recent series against Mississippi State, Mainieri made a pretty big change in the lineup for the Saturday matchup. He moved Jones from his usual six-hole spot in the order to the leadoff position. Mainieri explained that the decision was made following a lengthy discussion with Jones after the LSU victory on Friday night.
"After the game on Friday night, JaCoby was very happy that we won, but he was also discouraged because he had a lot of bad luck at the plate," said Mainieri. "When we got back to the hotel, I had a long discussion with him about this game. I wanted to let him know that I believed in him and he is a key to our success as a team."
Jones believes that the discussion he had with Mainieri was very beneficial for him. The move into the leadoff spot in the order was also quite a surprise for Jones, as he was not told that a move was going to occur.
"He told me to keep my head up and keep hitting the ball hard," said Jones. "He told me that he understands how frustrating it can be when you hit the ball hard right at people. He wants me to just keep a good attitude and not get discouraged up there."
"I just kind of glanced at the lineup and saw I was leading off. It was definitely surprising, but it's just another spot in the lineup."
Mainieri was certainly happy with the results that he saw from Jones after the move. After going 0-5 with three strikeouts on Friday, Jones bounced back with a 2-5 day on Saturday that included two RBI. Jones also went 2-2 with a walk and an RBI on Sunday.
Jones being in the leadoff spot is something that Mainieri believes may have gotten the talented junior moving in the right direction.
"I moved him up to the leadoff spot and I thought he had a really good game on Saturday and he was one of the few bright spots on Sunday for us," said Mainieri. "I think that got him jump started and he will be in that spot again for the game against Northwestern State."
While the move to the leadoff spot is new for Jones, he was very productive in the role. He also believes that it helped improve his confidence at the plate, something he had been lacking early in the season.
"I always try to hit line drives," said Jones. "Unfortunately, this season I've hit a lot of hard balls at people that have resulted in outs. This weekend was big for my confidence to have a couple of those big hits fall."
Jones admitted that he feels like a new hitter at the plate, something that can easily be seen when considering his walk totals in 2013. Jones explained that things feel as thought they are about to come together for him. However, his approach at the plate in his new role will not differ from what he has used all season.
"I'm just trying to go up there and get on base," said Jones. "I haven't adapted my approach by being in the leadoff position. I just try to do the same job that I would anywhere else in the lineup."
Jones reflects on lineup change
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