Jones on Portland hitting prospects

Gary Jones took over for Randy Ready as the manager at Triple-A Portland, guiding a team he is intimately familiar with from previous seasons. We caught up with Jones to discuss the prospects in Portland.

Mike Baxter is a guy you have known for a couple of years. It seems this year he really put together a solid plan and was able to execute it. Is that a fair assessment?

Gary Jones: Yes, that's a fair assessment. Baxter did a great job. Like any young player, he was a little inconsistent to start, but as he got going and he started to get the confidence, I think he did a real fine job and I think he has a bright future. He can play first base, actually he did a good job at first base. I'm sure you know he came out of college as a first basemen and he has played in the outfield. He's done both.

I think in a couple years he is going to show a little bit of power. I think he has a bright future.

What did you see out of Matt Antonelli? I know he was hurt and didn't get a lot of time with you and I know he worked extensively with Tony Muser, but what did you see out of him that makes you believe he can break out of this thing?

Gary Jones: There is no doubt he can, especially since he's a young kid. If you think back at his career since he's been a professional he got to Triple-A level pretty quick. I think his situation with Anto, a situation where you take a kid where he's always had success and he's never struggled. When we signed him he went from Lake Elsinore to Double-A and he played Double-A half the year and then he was in the Triple-A next year. So he basically got to Triple-A within two years after he was signed.

I just think if the situation where he kind of got in a little bit of a funk. He had never done it and it had never happened to him before. It was tough for him to figure out what he needed to do to get out of it. I still believe in him. I still think he has a chance to be a major league player; there's no doubt in my mind.

Chad Huffman was terrific in the last month of the season. What changed for Chad to allow him to do the things we all thought he could do at the beginning of the year?

Gary Jones: When I got there, he had pretty much had some solid numbers, and what I saw the last month of the season: number one he works his tail off and I don't think that's anybody's groundwork. He has all the qualities that you need to get better as far as work habits and studying the game and studying pitchers; that kind of thing.

I just think it was a matter of him relaxing a little bit, not trying to do too much, and just having him understand that ‘I can have success at this level. I can have success doing this.' His numbers bared that out. What does he have, 20 home runs with close to 70 RBI? I think in the future that 20 could turn into a bigger number. You are talking about a right-handed bat with power.

Sean Kazmar is a guy who has been inconsistent with the bat. We all love his glove and versatility defensively. What does he need to do to take it to the next level?

Gary Jones: Sometimes, Kaz kind of gets out of whack with his swing. Sometimes Kaz gets that ‘big man' mentality. For me, I think Kaz, he understands that and he knows this, he's been told this, he just needs to change his mentality; his approach at the plate from fly ball mentality to getting hard groundballs and letting those hard groundballs turn into line drives.

The ability is there and sometimes it just takes guys a little longer to figure out how to get it done. I think that is one thing he is battling with. It's in there, because the month I was there, I saw flashes of him where he would get hard groundballs, short line drives to right field and line drives up the middle. So you know it's there, it's just a matter of him becoming more consistent in doing it and him trusting that that's where he's going to have his success, not in continuing to hit more fly balls than groundballs. His approach has to be: ‘I'm going to hit more groundballs than fly balls' and if I hit four groundballs and make four groundball outs then I'm good with that. I can live with that. Those eventually are going to turn into success.

Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards

Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars


MadFriars Top Stories