After Nate Jones spoke to reporters Wednesday his manager greeted him with a big pat on the back, a handshake and a “Hello, Nate.”
Sixteen months after he last pitched in the majors and just over a year removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, Jones is back with the White Sox.
Jones was activated off the 60-day disabled list and Daniel Webb has been placed on the 15-day DL with a mid back strain. Even though he had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2014, the White Sox have no plans to baby Jones — he’s here and he will be used.
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“He’s going to have to be ready,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “If he was up here in September, if that was the earliest he got back, you would look at it a little differently. Once he’s up here and in the middle of it … he says he’s ready to go.”
Not only has Jones made nine appearances in the minor leagues since July 10, he also had more than a half-dozen simulated games prior to that. Jones has lit up the radar gun throughout, throwing four 100-mph fastballs among eight pitches in his first game.
Accompanied by a nasty slider, the right-hander, who led the team in 2013 with 78 relief innings, posted a 1.93 ERA and struck out five in 9 1/3 innings between Single-A Winston-Salem and Triple-A Charlotte on his rehab assignment.
“It was definitely a good test,” Jones said. “It was nice to see the hitters’ reaction, what they’re doing, and adjusting my game to that, and seeing how I react after I was done throwing, because it’s a different intensity level with the lights on and everything. Everything went well.”
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Jones didn’t just clear physical hurdles, a deliberate rehab has allowed him to clean up his mechanics and work on command. The right-hander only walked two batters in 9 1/3 innings. He also struck out four batters in his final two appearances.
“I got to zone in on my command and down there,” Jones said. “I feel stronger, because I think we cleaned up my mechanics a little bit. Got everything going towards the plate, and it makes a lot less stress on everything else on your body. I feel stronger and I feel better.”
Jones’ last appearance in the big leagues was April 3, 2014. At the time, Jones battled hip and back issues that led to a May 2014 microdisectomy. Jones was in big league camp all spring and has since made several stopovers in Chicago to throw in front of Ventura and Co. Ventura is glad to have back an arm he heavily relied upon in his first two seasons as the team’s manager.
“He has worked hard,” Ventura said. “For a guy that you have that surgery and work your way back, it’s a long road and he deserves to be here.”