Jaso gets first taste of playing in outfield

Standing in left field different than squatting behind the plate

Jaso gets first taste of playing in outfield

PORT CHARLOTTE -- John Jaso made his professional outfield debut Tuesday against the Pirates when he started in left field for the Rays.

According to Jaso's best guess, his last outfield appearance came as a freshman or sophomore in high school. During the regular season, Jaso has played only two games in the field at any other position than catcher. Those two games came in 2010 and '13 when he played first base.

He played six innings in his debut Tuesday, handling one ball when Andrew Lambo doubled to left in the fourth.

"He did a good job on the ball Lambo hit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Got it in quick. Hit the cutoff man. That's basically what we're asking him to do. We're not looking to [Jaso] right now to make spectacular diving plays."

Jaso admitted to being a little bit nervous in his new role.

"Yeah, but as the innings went on, I got calmer and calmer. ... The nervous part is standing around," Jaso said. "Once the ball comes off the bat, instincts kick in. All the nerves go away. You just kind of react. Then you start running and you can't think and run. Right?"

Ultimately, Jaso finished the day disappointed that he did not get a fly ball hit in his direction.

"I wanted to get the first one out of the way," Jaso said. "And then I saw somebody hit one to left and the [Pirates' left-fielder] kind of looked like he was struggling with the sun. Kind of made me nervous. I just need to get that first fly ball out of the way."

Standing in left felt a lot different than squatting behind the plate.

"That was the other thing, jogging out there and then standing out there for a while, it takes a different kind of toll on your body," Jaso said. "Not as bad as catching by any means. Just like standing out there. It's weird."

Desmond Jennings started in center, and Jaso credited him with helping on his positioning. Jaso added that the preparation for playing left was a lot less demanding than playing behind the plate.

Jaso led off for the Rays on Tuesday, which will likely be a familiar spot for him this season. Cash noted that it "could be likely" Jaso will be in the leadoff spot against certain pitchers.

"I like [leading off]," Jaso said. "I'll take pitches. I'm not afraid to go deep in the count. I think I fit in well out there unless I clog up the bases or anything like that."

Bill Chastain is the Rays beat reporter for MLB.com. He has been covering the club since 2004.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.