Nate Jones is expected to begin a rehab assignment later this week after a successful simulated game on Monday afternoon.
The White Sox reliever, who hasn’t appeared in a game since April 2014, impressed coaches and members of the front office with his pregame effort at U.S. Cellular Field. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Jones would head out on an assignment this week, though he suggested the right-hander’s recovery wouldn’t deviate from the rehab program.
“Nate looked great,” Ventura said. “Velocity, just coming out of his hand was better than you could expect from where he was and what he’s doing now.
“I know he’s going to go out this week and start pitching again and from there you see how he does. It’s not accelerated because he looked good throwing out here. There’s a plan there and you’re going to stick with it.”
Still three weeks shy of the one-year mark for his reconstructive elbow surgery (July 29), Jones faced major league hitters Monday and got an adrenaline rush. It was the seventh or eighth simulated game Jones has thrown since mid-June. Jones admits, he has “the itch” but also understands how important it is to not rush his program.
“You feel like you’re getting closer and you want to hurdle ahead, but you can’t do that, you’ve got to stay calm, stay patient,” Jones said.
He credits some of his patience to fellow reliever Jesse Crain, who has worked out with him in extended spring training since March. Also on the comeback trail, Crain hasn’t pitched in the majors in more than two seasons.
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“He’s like there’s no reason to rush it because if you rush it, something else could happen and you would be set back again,” Jones said. “It’s been nice to have him down there to talk to.”
“I feel like we’re getting close.”
Ventura believes the same thing. Last month, Jones threw fastballsbetween 96-98 mph and his slider was good, too. Now it’s time for Jones to finetune the process as he attempts to return to the White Sox.
“Velocity-wise he could probably go pitch right now but just the feel of it, throwing strikes, slider, offspeed stuff, not quite the feel you’d like him to have to be able to pitch for us,” Ventura said. “But coming out of his hand, he’s excited, it’s fun to see him go out there and throw like that.”