White Sox

Jones settling into groove in the Sox bullpen

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Jones settling into groove in the Sox bullpen

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com contributor

If anything encouraging for the White Sox came from a 5-0 loss to Kansas City on Saturday, it might be the performance of rookie reliever Nate Jones.

Jones threw 2 13 innings in a near-perfect appearance after entering for starter Chris Sale to begin the sixth inning. Jones struck out four and allowed only one hit in the longest outing of his brief career. His strikeout total is also a career high.

Jones said he has settled the nerves he experienced early in the season.

Those first couple times, Im not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous coming in, he said Sunday prior to the Sox-Royals series finale at U.S. Cellular Field. Ive calmed down a little bit and learned to trust my stuff, and do my thing out there.

In 14 13 innings spread over 10 games, Jones has a 1.26 ERA with seven walks and 14 strikeouts. He has allowed 10 hits and only two earned runs. Opponents are hitting .196 against him.

He continues to improve, manager Robin Ventura said. Thats one of the things with the young guys we have, youre bringing them into situations that you want them to gain experience and the feel for it every time they go out. You can see him gradually getting that. Im gaining a lot of confidence in putting him in different situations.

Understanding his role in the bullpen has been a big reason why he's settled down.

After the fifth, sixth inning, I know to be ready, Jones said. Every game, it doesnt matter what the score is, Ive become accustomed to being ready, getting stretched out, and being ready for that phone call.

Jones worked in spring training to incorporate a changeup and curveball into his repertoire. But he said everything still works off his fastball.

Once I get my fastball established I come in and try to throw my offspeed for strikes, he said. When I do (that) it makes it a lot harder on the hitters. It keeps them off balanced.

Jones also benefits from his relative anonymity among American League hitters. But he knows it wont be long before that changes. He said a pitcher must work to stay ahead of those adjustments.

You definitely hold an advantage because nobody has seen you before, Jones said. But once they start making that adjustment to you, you have to start adjusting as well. When that time comes, Ill do that. For now Im just going to do what I do, go out there and throw strikes.

Is Luis Robert so good that he'll start the season at Double-A?

Is Luis Robert so good that he'll start the season at Double-A?

Just how good is Luis Robert?

Well, that's the problem. Us on the outside, we don't know exactly.

The White Sox obviously love him, willing to give him big bucks to come play a starring role in the rebuild. Rick Renteria raved about Robert last month at the Winter Meetings, getting White Sox fans all excited by hyping Robert's speed, fielding skills and power.

But as good as the scouting reports sound, is Robert really so good that he'll go from never playing a game in the United States to the higher levels of minor league baseball right away?

That eyebrow-raising possibility was floated Tuesday.

Robert unsurprisingly has plenty of confidence in his own abilities and told The Athletic's James Fegan at the team's hitters' camp in Arizona that his goal is to make it to the big leagues sometime in 2018.

But perhaps the more interesting comment came from Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, who said Tuesday that Robert could potentially start the season at either of the White Sox two Class A affiliates, Kannapolis or Winston-Salem, or even at Double-A Birmingham.

Robert is just 20 years old, and he's yet to play a game of minor league baseball in the United States after spending his teenage years playing in Cuba. In fact, his only action since joining the White Sox has been 28 games in the Dominican Summer League. He did fare quite well in that handful of contests, slashing .310/.491/.536 with three homers, 14 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and a sparkling 22-to-23 walk-to-strikeout ratio. But that's not really the point.

The White Sox are in no rush with Robert, or any of their highly touted prospects, for that matter. Not expected to compete for a championship in 2018, there doesn't appear to be any reason to elevate Robert to the highest levels of the minors so quickly without first getting him some experience in the lower levels.

Of course, Getz even mentioning the possibility of Robert starting the season at Birmingham should also show just how good the team thinks Robert is right now. So maybe Robert's major league dream for 2018 isn't as crazy as it sounds?

Meet the Prospects: Luis Alexander Basabe

Meet the Prospects: Luis Alexander Basabe

The White Sox rebuild is in full swing. While it might still be a year or two before the big league team is expected to start competing for championships, the minor leagues are stocked with highly touted talent fans will be eagerly following in 2018. With that in mind, it's time to Meet the Prospects and get to know the future of the South Side.

Luis Alexander Basabe

Basabe, the 21-year-old outfielder, flew under the radar in the trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox.

A native of Venezuela, Basabe was overshadowed by Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech in that deal with the Red Sox, but he's a promising piece of the future, as well.

A year before joining the White Sox organization, Basabe slashed .264/.328/.452 with 66 runs scored, 53 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 110 games with Boston's two Class A affiliates in Greenville and Salem.

Last season with Class A Winston-Salem, VBasabe played in 107 games, slashing .221/.320/.320 with 52 runs scored, 36 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.

As of their most recent rankings, MLB Pipeline had Basabe rated as the No. 17 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Get to know Basabe in the video above.