Adam in the Outfield

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – It's been nearly five years since Alex Rodriguez signed his behemoth contract with the Texas Rangers, and the Mariners' situation at shortstop is finally starting to recover - to a point that a potential logjam could be taking shape.

This month, Yuniesky Betancourt debuted in Seattle, in his first season of pro ball. The 23-year old has all but cemented his claim on the position for 2006's opener, wowing fans with one web gem after another.

Betancourt's swift climb to the top is causing rifts down the M's farm system. Adam Jones is proving his worth after replacing "Cuba" in San Antonio, and could conceivably reach the majors soon after Betancourt. But Seattle might need to find another position for the athletic Jones if he is to become a Mariner.

The first attempt at this plan took place Aug. 14, when Missions manager Dave Brundage penciled in Jones as the night's starting center fielder. Jones did not get the chance to make a single play, but still felt out of place.

"I was a different experience for me," Jones said. "I felt really far from the ball."

Jones said while he had practiced in the outfield before, such as during batting practice, the switch was still unexpected. But like any ball player banking his hopes on a big-league contract, Jones is open to anything that speeds up that process.

"They just put me in center that day. I was shocked at first," Jones said. "Outfield's not a problem, though, and I know I'm athletic enough to go out and play there. I'm used to the communication aspect just from playing short."

Even with such an even-keel approach, Jones still admitted there might be an adjustment period if outfield becomes his new home.

"The hardest part is backing up all the throws and other outfielders," Jones said. "I go and shag balls when our center fielder is hitting (in BP), but right now shortstop is my main priority."

Along with Asdrubal Cabrera (Inland Empire), Jones, Betancourt and Mike Morse make up a crowded spot at short. Sources inside the organization have speculated trading Morse, who has yet to solidify himself as an everyday player in the majors.

Jones has not played a second game in center and is still getting used to the throwing distance. Before Saturday's game with Tulsa, he practiced throwing from center to the foul line in left, and heaved quite a few balls into the stands at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium.

Still, Jones is a top prospect in the organization, and if the likes of Chipper Jones and Craig Biggio can become major league outfielders, so too can a gangly 6-foot-2 kid from California.

"I like the Mariners' organization," Jones said. "It really doesn't matter, I'll play right, left, catch – as long as I'm in Seattle's starting lineup."

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