OAKLAND, Calif. — Don’t be surprised if you see Nate Jones get a few save opportunities this season.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Tuesday he’s very impressed with how the tall right-hander has performed over the last month and that he could use him in a variety of roles, including closer.
Jones — who struck out 13 in 8 2/3 scoreless spring innings — entered in the eighth inning of Monday’s game with one out and the tying run on second base. He made quick work of the two batters he faced, including an inning-ending strikeout of Khris Davis. Ventura said Jones, who had reconstructive elbow surgery in July 2014, doesn’t have any restrictions in terms of innings pitched.
“The feeling of having him new is over,” Ventura said. “We knew what he was like before he got hurt. But to have him back and have him able to come in and do that is really important for us. The confidence level of bringing him in being able to throw like that, whether it’s righty, lefty, whoever, we’re going to rely on him quite a bit.”
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Jones, who signed a three-year extension worth $8 million with options through 2021, is expected to be the team’s setup man. He earned his first hold Monday when he took over with a man on second (Jake Petricka issued a leadoff walk) and kept the White Sox in the lead.
Ventura has suggested that Jones, who had a 3.32 ERA in 19 games last season, could sub in for closer David Robertson when necessary.
“I see Nate being able to do a ninth inning if we need to,” Ventura said. “He has that kind of stuff if you need to give Robby a day, Nate can do that.”