White Sox

White Sox setup man Nate Jones has developed into more than 'regular guy'


White Sox setup man Nate Jones has developed into more than 'regular guy'

CLEVELAND -- When it comes to his recovery from elbow surgery, Nate Jones feels as if he’s like any other pitcher in the big leagues.

Now two years and two weeks removed from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox right-hander can be used on three straight days. He can pitch multiple innings. About the only thing the White Sox won’t do is ask Jones to warmup twice in the bullpen during the same game.

It’s a spot Jones wasn’t sure he’d ever reach when he returned to the majors last August. But here he is and look what Jones has developed into.

Not only has Jones -- 5-2 with three saves and a 2.13 ERA in 55 innings -- continued to strike out more than a hitter per inning, he has harnessed his command of the zone and drastically improved his walk rate.

“Right away last year I was kind of battling a little bit of soreness each time I threw,” Jones said. “But the further we got away from the surgery the better I recovered. This year I haven’t had any problems or major soreness or anything like that. I can tell how much more quickly I bounce back than right out of the gate last year.

“I’m just a regular guy.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Perhaps on the injury front he’s a regular guy, but Jones has developed into a formidable late-innings pitcher. Several major league scouts said Jones’ improved command of the fastball and slider has turned him into an outstanding setup man and potentially a closer.

Headed into this season, Jones walked 3.58 walks batters per nine innings, including four per in 2012. This season, Jones has averaged 2 walks per nine. He attributes it to applying some of the lessons he learned early in his career and credits many of his former veteran teammates for helping him to make the adjustment.

“It’s always good to have that foundation,” Jones said. “I’ve just learned what they taught me and applied it to now because in ’14 and ’15 I had a lot of time to think about it.

“Just attacking hitters and getting ahead with strike one. That’s the biggest thing, if you get ahead and stay ahead you can attack and go after the hitters instead of, if you’re falling behind, you have to throw strikes and they know that and that’s when they start hitting.”

Jones is on pace to appear in a career-high 76 games this season.

He broke through the scar tissue last season and hasn’t experienced the same soreness when he’s on the mound in 2016. Still, White Sox manager Robin Ventura remains cautious with Jones. He said one of the reasons he doesn’t like to ask him to warm up more than once in the bullpen is he doesn’t want to jeopardize Jones’ career.

“You’re always going to be very careful, especially the guy who is high velocity and has the ability to do the things and be available as much as Nate is,” Ventura said. “So you are careful, as far as if he feels anything or is tired, you monitor his usage.”

Jones is pleased to be in this position. He wasn’t sure what to expect as he rehabbed from his July 30, 2014 surgery. He just trusted what doctors, trainers and teammates who’d had Tommy John told him and worked hard.

Now he has seen the benefits.

“You’re always wondering is it ever going to go away? Or am I going to be sore throughout my career constantly?” Jones said. “That goes through your mind a little. But you’ve got to trust the process and keep working hard at it and it has worked out this year.

It’s a long process. Trust the process and you get out of it what you put into it, so bust your ass every day and it will show in the end.”

Max Scherzer speaks out, players plan to counter MLB with more games, no pay cuts

Max Scherzer speaks out, players plan to counter MLB with more games, no pay cuts

Negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players’ union are getting ugly.

Well, they might already be pretty ugly, if the players’ reaction to the league’s financial proposal made just Tuesday is any indication.

Fans are unlikely to have any patience for billionaires and millionaires fighting over how to divvy up billions of dollars during dual public-health and economic crises that have left 100,000 Americans dead and tens of millions more without a job. But that’s exactly what’s happening, with the players not having the owners’ proposal for salary reductions.

The strongest public statement yet came late Wednesday night, with Max Scherzer, one of the best pitchers in recent memory and the Washington Nationals’ union rep, taking to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

“After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players,” Scherzer wrote, “there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a second pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.

“I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic viewpoint will change if all documentation were to become public information.”

The players agreed back in March to receive prorated salaries based on the number of games played during a 2020 season shortened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With Major League Baseball reportedly proposing an 82-game schedule, the players are set to receive roughly half their salaries this year.

But team owners argue that deal was made under the assumption that there’d be paying customers in the stands, even though their absence was a possibility being discussed back then. With games expected to take place without fans, the league is arguing the decline in revenues will be so steep that the only economically feasible way to stage a season is with further reductions in player pay.

After ditching the idea of a 50-50 split in revenues — something the players considered a step toward a salary cap — the owners pitched a sliding-scale pay plan that would allow the lowest paid players to receive close to their prorated salaries while hammering the highest paid players, such as Scherzer, with drastic cuts.

This was expectedly unpopular.

RELATED: MLB dips into NFL playbook with proposal – here’s why it probably won’t work

But the union doesn’t plan to go silent. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, they’ll do what Scherzer said: make a counter proposal that does not involve any further pay cuts.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported Wednesday night that the players also plan to propose a longer schedule, perhaps in the 100-game range, which would earn them more money. But the league asserts it will lose more money with a longer season.

While it’s easy to view this as a bunch of really, really rich people scowling at each other and standing in the way of fans getting to watch their favorite teams, there’s one big thing to understand, which is exactly what Scherzer laid out. The owners are telling the players they can’t afford to both stage a season and pay the players what they previously agreed to be paid, but they’re doing it without showing the union the math.

It doesn’t take a great leap to understand that baseball’s revenues will be dramatically lower than in a normal season. Not only can they not sell tickets and $7 hot dogs, but with the number of games cut in half, the annual flood of money made by airing the games on television won’t be nearly as big.

But that doesn’t mean the league won't take in a ton of money. Baseball made a record $10.7 billion in revenues last year. Some estimation by Passan earlier this month figured that number could be less than half in a shortened 2020 season, potentially under $5 billion, which is still a lot of money, potentially twice as much as the players’ prorated salaries, worth roughly $2.5 billion, per Passan’s estimations.

The players, though, believe the owners aren’t truthfully representing the economic situation they face. And if they’re to believe them, the players want to see proof the owners have yet to provide.

It all makes for a nasty outlook at the moment. As Heyman alluded to, this might just be part of the negotiating process. But the clock is undoubtedly ticking, with the league hoping to start a second round of spring training in the middle of June and open the season in the first few days of July.

Will they make a deal? There's still a lot to be gained — billions of dollars, for example — by having a season. But the gap is big.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: A.J. Pierzynski delivered one of baseball's best moments

White Sox 2005 Rewind: A.J. Pierzynski delivered one of baseball's best moments

It’s no less bizarre a decade and a half later than it was that night.

The night A.J. Pierzynski pulled a playoff win out of nowhere.

If you’re still arguing whether or not the ball hit the dirt, you’re missing the point. Fifteen years later, the White Sox long the winners of that game, that series and that world championship, watching Pierzynski run to first base and flip the 2005 ALCS on its head is like watching a movie you never get tired of.

Yeah, I know the Avengers win in the end, but that doesn’t mean I’m able to take my eyes off the screen.

Nothing about running to first base after you’ve already been called out fits our typical parameters for sports greatness. Pierzynski didn’t deposit a walk-off homer into the bleachers. He didn’t use blazing speed to beat out an infield hit. He swung at a pitch he immediately knew he shouldn’t have. He screwed up. What’s so great about that?

But baseball is entertainment, let’s remember. And there might not be any better form of sporting entertainment than seeing something you’ve never seen before — and haven’t seen since.

So I’ll argue that this is one of baseball’s greatest moments. Because it’s absolutely insane.

Pierzynski, apparently playing a different game in his head than the one the Los Angeles Angels were playing on the field, ignored the rules of the sport. Home-plate umpire Doug Eddings made a fist, made the call, and Pierzynski took off. Better safe than sorry, he must have thought, and indeed he did end up safe. I’m sorry?

The Angels stood around watching Pierzynski like he had sprouted octopus tentacles on his way down the base line. Mike Scioscia, their manager, was outraged, and rightfully so, that not only did Pierzynski flat-out ignore that he’d already been called out, but that the umpires then seemed to ignore that they’d already called him out, too. Everything about it pointed to Scioscia being involved in the most elaborate episode of “Punk’d” that Ashton ever drew up.

RELATED: White Sox Talk Podcast: Distant Replay: The Pierzynski dropped third strike game

Somehow, Pierzynski was safe. He didn’t even stay on the field long enough to witness the end of Scioscia’s pleadings with the umpires, bounding into the dugout with Pablo Ozuna taking his place as a pinch runner. Three pitches later, Joe Crede brought Ozuna home with a walk-off double. The White Sox won.

And everyone was still trying to figure out how.

We might never have an adequate explanation, part of what makes this all so continually hilarious.

But what was abundantly clear that night was that the White Sox offense needed a wake-up call. The South Side bats that used small ball, Paul ball and over-the-wall ball to win 99 games during the regular season and beat the brains out of the defending champs in the ALDS did none of those three things during the first 17.2 innings of this series. The lone run they scored in the first 8.2 innings of Game 2 came home on a ground out.

The pitching was sensational, of course, with Jose Contreras coming two outs away from making the eventual complete-game streak five instead of four in Game 1 and Mark Buehrle delivering what he called one of the best games of his career — before the no-hitter and the perfecto, of course — in Game 2. That pitching kept the White Sox close, holding the Angels to a grand total of four runs in two games, the same amount the White Sox scored.

But when Pierzynski baffled the baseball universe, he also lit the fuse on the White Sox offense. All it took was three pitches for Crede to blast a double to left field and win Game 2. Two nights later, in Game 3, the White Sox hung a crooked number in the first inning, getting an over-the-wall ball from Konerko. They banged out 11 hits in Game 3. Another three-run first followed in Game 4, thanks to another Konerko homer, and the White Sox scored eight runs for their third straight win.

The offense came back. Sleepy as could be in the wake of the sweep of the Red Sox, the franchise’s first playoff series win in 88 years, the offense was awoken by, of all things, a strikeout.

Play to the whistle? Hell, play past the whistle. You just might win a playoff game.

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 3 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Thursday on NBC Sports Chicago.

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