Watching from afar

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire always knew that Garrett Jones had power potential, so he hasn’t exactly been surprised by the show that Jones is putting on with his new organization.

Jones was the hero for the Pirates on Friday night when he hit two home runs — including a walkoff shot in the 14th inning — to carry Pittsburgh to a 2-1 win over the Giants.

It was a continuation of the success that Jones has been having with the Pirates. Since being promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 30, Jones has hit seven home runs in 12 games for the Pirates. He’s currently homered in four consecutive games and has batted .313 with nine RBIs in those 12 games.

“I think everybody has always said that if this guy could figure it out and get going and relax enough to let it happen, boy,” Gardenhire said. “Because you watch him in batting practice and sometimes in games when he got ahold of a one, the ball went as far off his bat as anybody’s. I don’t think you’ll find anybody more excited than us to watch those highlights and see those home runs because he’s a quality, quality, person.”

Prior to this season, Jones had spent the last seven years in the Twins organization — including the majority of his past four seasons at Triple-A Rochester. His only previous Major League experience came in 2007, when he batted .208 (16-for-77) with two home runs in 31 games for Minnesota.

Jones didn’t get a call-up last season, playing all year for Rochester. There were some pundits who said that perhaps the club had kept the power hitting infielder in the organization for too long.

But Gardenhire said that the club always knew Jones had the potential, now he has just taken advantage of getting consistent playing time. With the Twins he was expected to come off the bench since the club had Justin Morneau entrenched at first base and a crowded outfield.

“That was a role that was really hard for him,” Gardenhire said. “His swing needed to be out there every day. He needed to be getting 500 swings. I don’t think there was a question he could hit 20 home runs if he got 500 at-bats,. it was whether he could do the role we had for him.”

Things didn’t work out for Jones in Minnesota, but Gardenhire said that there can’t be any regrets about that.

“Sure you wish you could have kept some guys but they move on,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the game of baseball…If they didn’t get it done here, you root for them to get it done somewhere else if they are a quality person. So [to see what Jones is doing], that’s what you hope for”.

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