Then, after returning for spring training games, started the season on the White Sox active roster as the primary set-up man to the newly acquired Matt Lindstrom. He lasted two outings, and recorded zero outs while allowing four earned runs, walking three, and failing to record a strikeout. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the injury from February flared back up in April.
It seemed he would get a chance to correct his ERA of, wait for it, infinity on the young season. Then, while rehabbing during his time on the disabled list, the right-handed reliever “felt a burning sensation” in his forearm and had an MRI scheduled.
His road back to the White Sox bullpen was about to get a whole lot longer. He received word he tore his ulnar collateral ligament and would need Tommy John surgery. What started as rehab for a gluteal strain suddenly became recovering from the most famous surgery in baseball. Jones, and the White Sox knew he would be gone for more than a year, leaving the team devoid of a set closer heading into the 2014 off-season.
Lindstrom and fellow veteran Ronald Belisario floundered in the role and despite rookie Jake Petricka pacing Major League rookies in games saved last year (14), the team saw him there as a necessity, not a permanent option. Knowing Jones would be out for half the season at least likely led to the signing of David Robertson this past winter, leaving Jones working towards a set-up role, not the closer spot he was supposed to lock down in the eyes of many.
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His road back to the major leagues technically ended August 4th when he was activated from the 60-day disabled list, but officially on August 7th when he entered a Major League Baseball game for the first time in 16 months and four days. Jones would make his debut against the reigning American League champion Kansas City Royals. All he did was touch triple-digits on the radar gun at Kaufmann Stadium, retiring all three batters he faced in the 8th inning, striking out two.
The 29-year old right-hander out of Northern Kentucky University was back. Since his return that day, Jones has given up no runs and allowed one hit over 6.1 innings with 10 strikeouts. The comeback was complete. Nate Jones-1, Tommy John Surgery-0.
Now healthy, the 5th-round pick in the 2007 amateur draft is a key cog in the White Sox bullpen for a team struggling to hang onto playoff contention. If nothing else, Jones gives fans another promising reason to be excited for the 2016 season. All we know for now though, is his arm is healthy enough to hit 100 mph on the radar gun, but hey that is a start right?