It didn’t occur to him until he was congratulated by Dioner Navarro in the postgame handshake line Monday that Nate Jones converted the first save of his career.
The reliever’s folly is easy enough to understand. What had been a two-run lead when Jones entered the game in the eighth inning suddenly increased to five with a late White Sox rally.
But once the veteran catcher helped him realized his accomplishment, Jones was quick to take advantage. First baseman Jose Abreu presented him with the ball from the final out, which Jones decided to keep instead of tossing to a fan in the stands. And Jones has already determined he’ll frame the lineup card manager Robin Ventura presented him with after he recorded the game’s final six outs.
“Navi said something — he was like ‘Nice save’ and it kind of took me back for a second because I didn’t realize,” Jones said. “But once he said it, it was like ‘All right.’ When Abreu gave me the ball, I’m like ‘I’m gonna keep this one.’ ”
This won’t be the final save of Jones’ career, perhaps not even this season, especially if he continues to throw as he has. Ventura said on April 5 that Jones has the stuff to handle the ninth inning if closer David Robertson is unavailable, a scenario that has already occurred once after Robertson pitched three times in four days last week.
“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.”
Fully recovered from reconstructive elbow surgery, Jones is off to a strong start in 2016. He’s put four men on base in seven innings, allowed only a run and struck out six. In his last five games, Jones has put one runner on.
Though it’s only Jones’ first save, it’s hardly his first big moment. Still, it’s a moment he won’t forget, either.
“It’s something that you always think about just getting a save as a reliever,” Jones said. “That’s something that some people sometimes don’t always have the chance to get. So always feel blessed for those moments like first big league appearance, first win, first save.”