JaCoby Jones' wild ride winds up in Detroit

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers non-roster outfielder JaCoby Jones rounds first base on his two-run home run in the eighth inning to make it 10-1 Tigers.

Detroit – The call came around 11 p.m. Monday night, and JaCoby Jones wasn’t immediately sure it was legit.

It was from Lloyd McClendon, his manager at Toledo. Jones re-enacted the conversation.

“I was pretty surprised.  Lloyd said, ‘Hey kid, what are you doing?’ I was like, ‘I’m just sitting down, watching TV.’ He was like ‘You’re going to the big leagues.’ I was like, ‘Really?’

“He was like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s when I lost it, and started freaking out.”

Jones, the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect, was expected to make his big league debut at third base Tuesday night.

“Ever since you’re a young kid, just thinking about it, watching all these guys playing in the big leagues, and wanting to do that,” he said. “It’s just a great moment, in your heart, with joy and everything. It’s a great time for me. I’m glad to be here, and I’m super excited about it.”

It’s been a heck of a year for Jones.

Last August he was a top prospect in the Pirates chain when he was abruptly traded to the Tigers for Joakim Soria. Then, after getting off to a hot start in the Arizona Fall League, he was suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB drug policy (recreational drugs).

And now this.

“Yeah, a lot of stuff,” he said. “I got traded, wasn’t expecting that. The suspension, obviously, was a big deal. Yeah, it’s been a long 13 months. But it’s all good, and I’m here now, and I’m ready to go.”

The suspension, of which 13 games was served in the Arizona Fall League, had him wondering if a day like Tuesday would come this season.

“I always had it in the back of my mind that I was good enough to come up here this year,” he said. “But I didn’t know, since I got suspended, that I would get the chance. But when I got the call last night, everything came true.”

The Tigers are hoping Jones, who plays center field and third base, can inject some energy into a sputtering offense.

“It’s good that they have faith in me, that they think I could do some stuff to help the team win,” he said. “That gives me confidence that they have confidence in me. Hopefully I can continue to play ball the way I’ve always played ball, and help them win some games down the stretch, and keep this thing going.”

Over his last 13 games at Toledo, Jones was hitting .340 with a .858 OPS. He’s played 57 games in center at Toledo and 22 at third, but his natural position is shortstop.

“They’re both different positions, and they’re both challenging at the same time,” he said. “Third base is the hot corner over there, so you’ve got to be ready every time. Center field, you just use your speed pretty much, get some good reads on the balls.”

He says he’s comfortable in both spots.

“I’ve played center field more than I’ve played third base, so if I had to choose one, it would probably be center,” he said. “But I’ve played third base for a while now, so I feel comfortable there. And I’m a natural shortstop, so I’m used to being on that side of the infield.”

As memorable as his call from McClendon was Monday night, the call he made immediately after was more intense.

“After I took it all in I called my parents,” Jones said. “That was probably the best call I’ve ever had in my life, calling my parents, letting them know I made it to the big leagues.”

It got loud and it got emotional.

“Oh, yeah, my mom was crying, as soon as I told her,” he said. “She was like yelling and crying. I heard my dad in the background, screaming. So it was a good feeling for me to know when I called my parents, they were that excited about it.”

His mother, father and sister are expected to be at the game Tuesday.

“That’s fun,” he said. “They’re going to share this moment with me today, so it’s all going to be good.”