SHANKS: What are your thoughts on last year – your first full season?
JONES: It was good to stay healthy. That was the positive to come out of it. But it was shaky. I experienced a long season for the first time, and it's definitely a long season. It's in the past now and I have to take steps forward and go on with my career and get better everyday.
SHANKS: That was a huge test for you, wasn't it?
JONES: Yes, sir. Definitely. It's a grind. It's 142 games and not many days off in between. You're just always working and throwing. Got the first one under the belt and now it is time for (season) number two.
SHANKS: What did you learn about yourself last year?
JONES: I beat up on myself a little too much. I wouldn't say I was expecting too much, but I did want more out of myself. I can't beat myself up. I have to stay focused and keep my eye on the prize.
SHANKS: Stuff-wise, what did you see develop in your game last season?
JONES: I found a legit number two pitch with a changeup. My fastball was a little erratic, but we're going to get it fixed and keep working at it and get it better. But I've got a number two pitch with a decent number three (curveball). So I now have three pitches I can throw for a strike.
SHANKS: What were your pitches in high school?
JONES: Really just a fastball. I could throw a change for a strike, but not consistently. I can now. The curveball is about the same. It's a bit better now with these great instructors. It's getting pretty true. It's going to be pretty good.
SHANKS: Did your fastball suffer, and is that where the consistency came from, because of the emphasis you placed on getting the breaking ball better?
JONES: I don't think so. It wasn't all the time. It was certain spurts where I'd struggle a little bit. It might be three hitters in a row, and then I'd get back on track. I've just got to make adjustments. You can't worry about the last at bat. You've got to get the guy who is at the plate right now. I've been working with the coaches, and I feel like I'm fixing some of those problems. So I'm looking forward to this season.
SHANKS: Now that you've got a better handle on these breaking pitches, do you feel now that you're really learning how to pitch and not just throw?
JONES: Definitely. In high school you can win with a fastball. If you throw hard you can win with it. The only need that breaking ball and changeup a couple of times a game against maybe some good high school hitters. Here your fastball is still your number one pitch that you work off of, but you've got to be able to throw something else at them and get something in their heads. So I definitely think it's going to make me better this year. I'm going to keep working at it.
SHANKS: Do you think you need to go back to Rome?
JONES: Definitely. Stuff-wise I think I could get hitters out in Myrtle Beach, but I still have a lot to prove in Rome. I left a lot of questions unanswered up there. Do I plan on staying there? No. But if that's what my goal is I'm definitely going to go there and put doubts in people's heads and make them think I can pitch at the next level. But if I do go back to Rome I wouldn't be upset. I'm not in no hurry, no rush. It would be a plus to go to Myrtle, but I've got to answer some questions up there (in Rome).
SHANKS: They pushed you and tested you by sending you to Rome to start the season last year. But if they do send you back to Rome I'm sure they'll want you to do well and then get out of there.
JONES: Yeah. Seeing people in Rome last year who repeated and then they got moved up once they got successful. That's what's so great about this organization. As long as you stay healthy, you're going to keep moving. There's nothing better than leaving a place with finished business and knowing you've succeeded at this level and there's nothing left to prove. That's a definite plus. I feel I've got some stuff to prove in that league. I feel I'm a way better pitcher than what I showed in that league. I shouldn't have had those kinds of stats. I was fortunate when I came up to go to Rome and not have to go to Danville, but I think these kids (from the 06 draft) may find out differently. I was very fortunate to go to Rome last year.
SHANKS: Is there anything you feel you're going to have to do to make that impression in Rome and then make that jump to Myrtle Beach?
JONES: Just consistency. Last year it would usually come down to one inning where I just lost it. I was good for three and then be bad in the fourth and then come out for the fifth and sixth and be fine. It's just the consistency. That's the name of this game. Everybody here has good stuff, but you've got to be consistent with it. Once I find that consistency, I think I'll be alright.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at email@example.com.
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