Sox’ Nate Jones stays positive despite two serious surgeries in last four years
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Talking with White Sox reliever Nate Jones, you never would think he had been through two major surgeries on his right arm in the last four years. Jones doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, only a desire to help the Sox win.
‘‘The only thing I [have to] prove is just like everybody here — throw strikes and get guys out,’’ Jones said. ‘‘When I go out there, I want to have a clear mind. I don’t want to be worrying about how I’m feeling. I just want to go out there and give it 100 percent, and whatever happens, happens.’’
Jones missed the entire 2014 season after having Tommy John surgery and returned in August 2015. But after putting together a strong season (5-3, 2.29 ERA) in 2016, Jones began to lose feeling in his right hand because of scar tissue forming around nerves in his elbow. He had nerve-repositioning surgery after only 11 appearances in 2017 and missed the rest of the season.
Talking with teammates who have been through similar situations has been important to the mental side of Jones’ rehabilitation.
‘‘There’s a couple of guys who have had surgery and have come back from Tommy John,’’ Jones said. ‘‘There’s plenty of guys to look to. Especially just looking around in the bullpen when I had [Tommy John], there were four of us, I think. That was a big help.
‘‘Some days you’re not feeling so good, and you talk to the guys, and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’ll have days like that.’ I kind of reached out and leaned on those guys to see what their experience was and what they were feeling through the process, which mentally helped me get through some of those tough days.’’
Jones, who has allowed one run and four hits with three strikeouts and no walks in 3 1/3 innings so far this season, said he has been satisfied with his start.
‘‘I’m happy with how I’m recuperating after each outing, and I’m happy with [my] command, throwing strikes and stuff like that,’’ Jones said.
Jones has been working hard to perfect his changeup, a pitch he’s feeling more comfortable using.
‘‘[My] main focus has always been developing the changeup more,’’ Jones said. ‘‘That’s always been something we’ve worked on in my career, but I think this year we’ve really taken a big step forward with it. [I’m] going to utilize it more.’’
Jones’ changeup is something manager Rick Renteria said used to be a strength.
‘‘From what I understand, when he was in the minor leagues, Nate had a really, really good changeup,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He’s using it a little bit more. It’s really good. I think if he decides to mix it in with his fastball, it can definitely get hitters off of it.’’
For Jones, staying positive is important. And it seems to come easily for him.
‘‘Once you’re around the guys on the team, all you want to do is stay upbeat and win every game,’’ he said. ‘‘But me, personally, that’s who I am. I always try to look at the positives and be thankful for those harder times that I went through. I always call them blessings in disguise.
‘‘I just look back and am thankful that I was able to make it through it and make it back here with the team and try to help us win.’’