Braves' Mycal Jones Gets Comfortable In The Outfield

ATLANTA—Major league teams sent players to Panama this winter for the first time in a generation. While the playing conditions were inconsistent, the situation was close to ideal for outfielder Mycal Jones.

"Playing in Panama was a great experience," Jones said. "I was able to get some at-bats down there and make up for some of the lost time I had earlier in the year. I improved in some aspects of my game that I really wanted to focus on, especially the small-ball parts of bunting for hits, getting on base and stealing bases."

After playing at three levels in 2010, the 24-year-old Jones encountered a frustrating first half to last season. A toe injury suffered during the latter part of spring training sidelined him for all of April. He then missed about a week in May on the suspended list after being arrested on a drunken-driving charge. At midseason, Jones was hitting .241/.386/.375 with two stolen bases at Double-A Mississippi.

Fortunately, his performance started to change as the season progressed. Jones bounced back to hit .257/.347/.383 with 15 steals in the second half, and he feels those numbers are not indicative of how much better he hit the ball during the final two-plus months of the campaign.

"When I returned to action, (the toe injury) didn't bother me at all," Jones said. "I just didn't get on base as often as I needed to during the first half of the season. Once I got my rhythm down and got on base, I was able to make some things happen by stealing more bases and playing my game."

Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2009 out of Miami Dade CC, also made strides with his defense last season. A shortstop during his first two years in the organization, Jones tried second base during instructional league in 2010 before moving to center field last spring. He had seen time in center field in high school and college but had never focused on the finer points of playing the position until last season.

"I was very pleased with the adjustments I was able to make defensively," Jones said. "It wasn't a big change compared to shortstop. My arm strength improved over the course of the season while I worked on long toss and other drills that helped."

Wigwam Wisps

• The Braves hired former Mets strength and conditioning coach Rick Slate to handle the same responsibilities with Atlanta's minor leaguers.

• Former major league manager Lee Elia has been named a special assistant to player development with the Braves.