Except for a solid showing on Opening Day, the Chicago White Sox bullpen has been one of the weakest areas of the team in these first three games. This is partially due to the poor pitching performances of Nate Jones. However, based on his career numbers, Jones’ early struggles aren’t anything the White Sox need to worry about.
Despite a strong spring in which he had a 2.35 ERA and struck out eight batters in 7.2 innings pitched, Jones’ lost the closer’s role on Opening Day to Matt Lindstrom. His pitching has also been one step above atrocious in two appearances this year.
In his first outing on April 2, he earned a blown save by giving up two earned runs and not recording an out against the Minnesota Twins. Though the White Sox went on to win the game 7-6 in 11 innings, Jones’ mound time was one of the lowlights of the victory. The next day, Jones walked two batters who eventually scored and had to watch his ERA climb further into infinity. He still hasn’t recorded an out in 2014.
It gets better for the White Sox’ would-be closer, however. Based on his numbers since making his debut on April 8, 2012, Jones is a career late-bloomer and usually doesn’t start to get his ERA out of the stratosphere until the middle of May. He his career ERA of 5.23 in March/April consistently drops as the season progresses; it’s 4.02 by May and hits a much more comforting 2.81 in June.
Last season, in which Jones primarily worked as the setup man for then-closer Addison Reed, followed the same pattern. June was a joy for Jones, and he had a 0.59 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and struck out 21 of the 56 batters he faced in 13 appearances. Compared to his 6.91 ERA in May, the June version of Jones almost looks like a different pitcher.
Given the disparity between those two ERAs and his performance so far this season, it’s a safe bet that things will look up for Jones within the next month or so.
Jones will work through his issues; it just may take a little while. While I think it’s pretty unlikely that the White Sox will consider demoting him because of these early struggles, it’s important to note that the team does have a strong relief corps working at triple-A Charlotte. Pitchers like Charlie Leesman and Zach Putnam who almost made the big league cut and are raring for a chance to reach the majors.
The White Sox believe in Jones, but even faith has its limits sometimes.