Albuquerque outfielder Mitch Jones toiled in the minor leagues for 10 years before he finally was given a chance to play in the majors this season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But the slugger’s two-week stint in the big leagues turned out to be bittersweet, as he was used as a part-time replacement for Manny Ramirez while the Dodgers star served his 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy.
“It was a good experience, finally getting that little bit of a monkey off my back, but I would’ve liked it to be under different circumstances instead of being there for somebody who didn’t pass his drug test,” Jones, 31, said Saturday before the 51s’ 4-2 loss to the Isotopes at Cashman Field. “I kind of envisioned when I got that first call-up, it would be going up with an opportunity to try to stick around, and I don’t think that was necessarily the case. But you take what you can get.”
Jones, who leads the Pacific Coast League in home runs with 29, went 4-for-13 (.308) with a double in eight games for Los Angeles, which called him up June 16. He cracked his first major league hit June 17 at Dodger Stadium.
“Getting my first hit and all that stuff at Dodger Stadium was an unbelievable experience. I’m not complaining about that at all,” Jones said. “It was a good opportunity, but I would’ve liked to have gotten a chance to stick around.
“If I ever got a chance to play on a regular basis, I think I could stick there.”
Jones spent the first seven years of his career in the New York Yankees farm system before joining the Dodgers organization in 2007.
A four-time minor league All-Star who has 230 career homers, Jones was called up to the Yankees on May 20, 2006, but was sent down the next day without seeing any action.
In 106 games for Las Vegas over the past two seasons, when he also played in Japan, Jones hit .288 with 35 homers and 105 RBIs.
Isotopes manager Tim Wallach said Jones is one of the best power hitters he has seen.
“He hits the ball as hard and as far as the top 5 percent of guys I’ve seen,” Wallach said. “When he hits the ball, it jumps. There’s not that many guys where the ball comes off the bat like it does when he hits it.”
Jones showcased his prodigious power Friday in Albuquerque’s 12-6 win over Las Vegas at Cashman. He launched a towering, tiebreaking homer over the left-field wall leading off the 10th inning and finished 4-for-6.
He went 1-for-5 with a double in Saturday’s win and is hitting .292 with 80 RBIs in 86 games.
Jones hopes to return to Los Angeles in September, when the rosters expand.
“If you put pressure on people long enough to be in the forefront of their minds, eventually somebody’s going to do something,” he said. “I’d like an opportunity at some point.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.ALBUQUERQUE 4
LAS VEGAS 2
KEY: Jason Repko homered and Chin-Iung Hu had two RBIs for the Isotopes.
NEXT: Isotopes (LHP Scott Elbert)) at 51s (RHP Marty McLeary), 7:05 p.m. today, KBAD-AM (920)