Baseball still a question mark

Jones was hitting .355 prior to spring football

Chad Jones has garnered plenty of attention for his performance in spring football. Yet, after making the cut for the Tiger baseball team earlier this year, the junior was expected to return to the team after football let out for spring. With the break coming to a close, Jones is nowhere to be seen.

“The plan going in was that [Jones] was going to rejoin us for spring break, but in all honesty I haven’t talked to him,” Mainieri said. “I figured that if he had a burning desire to be out here this week, he would have made it known to me.”

No sweat to Mainieri, however, for the time off is better spent hitting the books.

“Chad has been so focused on football and schoolwork that I figure he is settling into the idea that he is going to finish out spring football and have his academics under control,” he said.

“On April 19th we will see where we are with our team and where he is with his grades.”

Jones, who was hitting .355 (11-of-31) with a home run and three RBI before departing for spring football, occupied the right field spot when the Tigers needed a left-handed hitter at the plate.

Freshman Mikie Mahtook has joined Derek Helenihi in the rotation in right, adding more bodies to an already cluttered outfield.

Where that leaves Jones, of course, remains to be seen.

“I fully expect him to be back, because that was the plan all along,” Mainieri said. “But I don’t know for sure. I’m not with him everyday. We will just see where he is and what our situation is and where he fits in with the team.

“You never know how things can happen,” added Mainieri. “Either you have an injury or a guy isn’t performing well, if somebody can come in and be a difference maker, that can really help out.”

One place that Jones will surely be a difference maker is head coach Les Miles’ defensive backfield, where the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has already been making noise from the safety spot.

“Chad, boy he is a big, roaming body back there,” Miles said. “If you put a ball up in the air he will come down with it.”

Jones returned a fumble for a touchdown in the second Tiger scrimmage, keeping the ball rolling on his breakout spring on the gridiron.

While Miles said that the decision for Jones to return to baseball rests on Mainieri’s shoulders, the Tiger skipper is not quite ready to make a call.

“If Chad comes back after spring football and he looks like he can make our team better, then we will find room for him,” Mainieri said. “If I don’t feel that way then we will continue with the guys that are playing in his absence.”

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