Left-hander Beau Jones has been one of the hottest pitchers in the Rangers' system since moving to the bullpen in early June. Since the switch, Jones has surrendered just three earned runs in 24.1 innings. He has struck out 29 while limiting opposing hitters to a .202 average.
But this season is not Jones' first in the ‘pen. The Atlanta Braves converted him into a reliever before dealing him to the Rangers last summer. Jones had some success, posting a 2.96 ERA with just 12 walks in 48.2 innings.
The Rangers used Jones as a starting pitcher after acquiring him last season, but they elected to put him back in the bullpen three months into the 2008 season. Jones believes his previous experience as a reliever has made the recent transition a smooth one.
"It hasn't been as hard as the first time," said Jones. "The first time was a lot worse. It took me longer to get up. I never felt comfortable until the second or third inning like a starter would usually. But it has been alright now."
Jones learned last year that he didn't have much time to warm up when coming out of the bullpen.
"It is mainly just getting your body trained to get warmed up quicker," he said. "It's a little easier when you come to think because you just get the ball and go.
"I was a month into it [last year] before I could get the concept of not having time to stretch and you can't sit there and play toss. You've just got to get after it."
The 21-year-old actually made his High-A debut in 2007 with Myrtle Beach. The promotion turned out to be disastrous, as he yielded 15 runs on 10 hits and 14 walks in 7.2 innings. The Braves quickly sent Jones back to Low-A ball, where he finished out the season.
Currently sporting an overall ERA of 2.93 in 43 innings with the Blaze, Jones is clearly happy to have taken advantage of the second chance.
"[This season] has definitely been a learning experience, definitely coming off last year throwing in High-A and not throwing the best in the few chances I had," said Jones. "To come back here and prove that you can pitch in this league, it's definitely a confidence boost."
Jones began this season in the starting rotation, where he went 1-3 with a 5.30 ERA in four starts. The Louisiana native isn't exactly sure why he's had so much more success as a reliever, but he believes his mindset plays a key role.
"I would say my mindset out of the bullpen is just a little different and I don't know why," Jones replied. "I'm just more aggressive, going right at guys. You come into a situation and the tempo is already flowing – it's time to roll. It has been a lot less thinking and I think that has helped me a little bit more."
As a starting pitcher, Jones used a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. The Braves drafted the southpaw 41st overall in the 2005 MLB Draft because of his excellent fastball-curveball combination. Jones didn't begin developing the third pitch until he had signed with the Braves.
"I give [my changeup] to the Braves," said Jones. "They're a huge organization that believes that's the best pitch in baseball – the changeup. They really emphasized it when I got in there and it has taken off from there."
When starting pitchers are converted into relievers, they often become two-pitch pitchers. Jones believes his ability to throw all three of his pitches out of the bullpen has been one of the keys to his success.
"I use all three pitches and I think it is actually better because I've got less time," he explained. "I use them as much as I should, where as a starter I always tried to save stuff or get by innings without using something. I'd save it for the second time through. Now I just come out of the bullpen letting all three pitches go and throwing them at any time."
On Friday afternoon, the Texas Rangers promoted Jones to Double-A Frisco. The lefty figures to play a key role out of the bullpen for the playoff-bound RoughRiders, as the club has been short on left-handed relievers.
Even before Jones learned of his promotion, he appeared to be looking forward to the remainder of the 2008 season.
"These guys preach finishing strong to us," said Jones. "It's not what you did – you can't control what you did the last two months – you finish this last month and a half and leave that lasting impression when they go to talk about you. I just want to keep throwing and try to prove something every time I toe the rubber."
Now playing on the bigger Double-A stage, Jones will have an opportunity to do just that.
Jones finding success in relief role
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