Nate Jones says his 97-mph sinking fastball is his best pitch, but the right-hander is using his slider, which he throws around 89 mph, with more confidence than ever.
“I try to do the same thing I always have, which is grip it and rip it,’’ Jones said. “Hopefully I’m throwing it more for strikes and getting a little better control of it [than I have in the past].’’
Jones, a 6-5 right-hander, isn’t afraid to throw the slider when he’s behind in the count. He threw one on a 3-2 pitch in Game 1 of a doubleheader Monday and struck out the Indians’ Yan Gomes.
Through Monday, Jones had appeared in 20 games, striking out 18 and walking four while pitching to a 2.00 ERA. The Sox bullpen, which ranked third in the American League with a 2.65 ERA, had contributed five scoreless efforts in the previous six games after giving up 16 earned runs in their previous six, their worst stretch of the year.
They might be working their way out of a ‘dead-arm’ period. That’s the hope, anyway.
“That kind of happens,’’ Jones said. “Out of spring training, we got used a bit in April — and that’s a good thing. We’re all prepared for that and fine with that. But it might have caught up with us in that road trip [in Texas and New York]. But we’re still grinding it out. Everyone’s goal is to put up zeros and get the ball to D-Rob [David Robertson] with the lead.’’
After sending infielder Carlos Sanchez to AAA Charlotte and brining up 97-mph right-hander Tommy Kahnle on Monday, the Sox have added a power arm to go with Jones in the bullpen and will carry 13 pitchers at least through the week, manager Robin Ventura said. Matt Purke, the third lefty along with Zach Duke and Dan Jennings, will likely be the long man on most days.
Jose Abreu went into Tuesday’s game with two hits and no RBI in his previous 20 at-bats. He had batted .321 with 18 RBI in his previous 20 games. Abreu was on pace for 95 RBI but his OPS of .696 this season paled next to .964 and .850 his first two seasons.
“This is probably the first time he has been through something like this,’’ Ventura said. “We don’t look at it like this is going to last forever. It’s something for him to go through and he’s going to be better after he gets through it.”
The first baseman, batting fifth for the second straight day after going 1-for-9 in a doubleheader Monday, lined a sharp single to right field leading off the second against Indians starter Josh Tomlin Tuesday.
“It’s not fun for him going through it, he wants to be doing better but you have to grind your way through it. … eventually he’s going to get there.”
This and that
Probable starters for the four-game series in Kansas City: Thursday, Miguel Gonzalez vs. Danny Duffy; Friday, Carlos Rodon vs. Yordano Ventura; Saturday, Mat Latos vs. Ian Kennedy; Sunday, Sale vs. Edinson Volquez.
The road trip continues with four interleague games against the New York Mets and three games against the Detroit Tigers next weekend.
*Wednesday afternoon starter Jose Quintana (5-1, 2.58 ERA) is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) against the Indians.