KANSAS CITY -- He’ll have to provide more evidence but Nate Jones could quickly work his way up the food chain in the White Sox bullpen.
There’s no question the White Sox have some logistics to work out with Jones, who Friday appeared in his first game since April 3, 2014.
Jones, who struck out two in a scoreless inning in a 3-2 White Sox loss, has to prove his surgically repaired right elbow can handle a heavy workload. He also must demonstrate he can repeat the performance against said workload and show he can throw in consecutive games.
“You have to see when he can get back in there and feel comfortable throwing like that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You know the first time going back out there he’s going to be up around 100 mph just because of his heart rate and being back on the field. It comes back to throwing strikes and doing it over multiple days and back to back and stuff like that.”
Just about everyone was impressed with how Jones handled himself in an emotion-filled outing. Before the right-hander unleashed a torrent of 99- and 100-mph fastballs, Jones took several deep breaths on the mound. He then settled in to dominate Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas, striking out the last two.
“It was like the whole rehab process was coming to an end,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of frustration, a lot of anxiety, a lot of excitement, a lot of adrenaline, and it all came out right there. It was good, I was fortunate enough I was able to do my job and keep it under control.”
Not only did Jones offer the high heat, he averaged 92-mph with his slider and threw it for strikes on six of seven pitches. Jones said he gets further removed from thinking about his elbow with every pitch and credits work in simulated games for his good command.
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Given his lengthy absence and a deliberate rehab, Jones probably isn’t expecting a quick ascent into a higher-leverage role. For now he wants to continue to rebuild the confidence he belongs. Friday’s outing should go a long way toward both.
“To see their reactions, to see what they’re doing to your pitches and adjusting off that, it was a great test for sure because they don’t take it easy on you,” Jones said.
“I want to be one of the guys and just blend in and do my job.”