Mitch Jones: The "Veteran" in Arizona

Outfielder Mitch Jones just laughs, but it is that uncomfortable, serious laugh.<br> <br> "No, I am not the oldest guy on the Rafters. I'm not sure, but I think..." he names another player, a pitcher. He seems fine, comfortable, but still real serious. "I'm not the oldest guy, come on."

Jones hit 39 home runs and drove in 97 runs in Trenton this past year, a year in which his accomplishments were repeatedly kicked to the second page behind such high profile minor leaguers as Ryan Howard and Casey Kotchman. Jones has no problem with that, "I've never been that frontrunner, my whole career I've sort of been that quiet guy that just goes about his business. A lot of times these guys that get the big hype don't end up doing anything anyway, I just keep playing and working hard, and hopefully people in the organization will notice that."

People are noticing, enough that Jones was a sure fire pick to represent the Yankees in the Arizona Fall League, and while he will turn 27 on Friday, he's not worried about the 'old man' reputation that some have pinned on him. "I'm a grinder, just working hard, and down here we get a lot of instruction, a lot of opportunity to improve."

What Jones is working on specifically is clear. Bat on ball. In 496 at bats last season he struck out a Drew Henson-like 152 times, meaning that while he hit 39 home runs, his batting average was just .246. He has help, and he using it. "My manager down here [Bruce Fields of the Detroit Tigers organization] is a hitting coach, and so is Jose [Marzan of the Twins], so I am always working with them and picking their brains. I'm trying to stay back, just meet the ball, and not try to pull everything."

While hitting is the focus, it isn't the only thing on Jones' mind. Recently the coaches have had him working at a new position, first base. "It is definitely an adjustment, but it hasn't been too bad." Jones says with a smile that implies he knows the situation. John Olerud's two run homer Wednesday not withstanding, the Yankees have a hole at first, and that position could be Jones' ticket to the big leagues. "I don't care about the competition, I don't care about the hype. I'm here to work hard and learn, and I'm doing that. I had a pretty good year and I'm trying to carry that over to the fall. I just keep playing hard and working hard and hopefully things keep going well."

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