Jones finding success with slider

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Left-hander Beau Jones has been perhaps the most reliable member of the Frisco RoughRiders' bullpen this season. The success is due in-part to his new slider, which is quickly becoming a reliable pitch. Lone Star Dugout chatted with the pitcher after a recent appearance.

The Rangers' 2007 trade with the Braves that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta and five prospects to Texas is one of the primary reasons that the club currently sits atop the AL West.

Of those players, only left-hander Beau Jones remains below the Triple-A level. But that doesn't mean Jones has been a disappointment. The former supplemental first round pick has found his niche in the bullpen, and he is playing well with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.

Jones has a 2.89 ERA in 11 games with Frisco this season. He has appeared in 18.2 innings, surrendering 17 hits, walking ten and striking out 20.

Prior to the 2009 regular season, Jones had always used a curveball as his breaking pitch, but while he was playing in the Arizona Fall League last year, the Rangers gave him a slider instead.

During Jones' recent three-inning outing against the Corpus Christi Hooks, Jones allowed one run while walking none and fanning five. He used the 78-80 mph slider with regularity, and it was an effective pitch.

Though still inconsistent at times, Jones' slider is improving by the game and it is already developing into a legitimate swing-and-miss offering.

Still, Jones' best pitch is his plus changeup. In the outing against Corpus Christi, Jones threw his changeup four times in his first inning, getting four swings and misses. The pitch makes him deady against right-handed hitters, and they are batting just .190 off him this season.

Jones' ability to spot his 88-91 mph fastball—along with his ability to develop the slider—will determine whether or not he becomes an effective Major League reliever. But one thing is clear—the 22-year-old certainly has the stuff to become a mainstay in the Rangers' bullpen.

Lone Star Dugout spoke with Jones after the recent outing against the Hooks.

Jason Cole: You went three innings and gave up one run while striking out five last night. Can you talk about your thoughts on your performance?

Beau Jones: It was okay. I felt like I had three pitches that I was throwing for strikes, so that's always a help. I just had to go in there and battle a little bit—try to get us a few innings and save some arms. I felt like overall it went pretty well.

Cole: How do you feel about your season thus far?

Jones: In my eyes—working on the slider and stuff—it has been successful. I had a couple of rough ones, but I've had some good ones. I've just got to keep on going at it and take it day-by-day.

Cole: Had you ever thrown a slider in the past?

Jones: No. Scott Servais came up to me when I went to the Fall League and he said I was going to be a slider guy. He told me to learn and I'm still learning it. Day-by-day I'm trying to get it better and tighter. I'm going to see where it goes.

Cole: Did you throw the slider in the Fall League last year?

Jones: Yeah, I did. I attempted to, I should say. It was tough. I was learning a new pitch. I was really picking guys' brains trying to figure out how to do it. Clayton Hamilton has been a big help for me. He throws a good one and he's teaching me. That has been the hardest thing—going from an overhand curveball to a slider. It has been tough. But it's working.

Cole: When you were switching over in the Fall League, did you still throw a curveball at all?

Jones: No, it was banged. Servais came up to me and said bang it. Whatever he says, goes. So I banged it and I've been working on a slider ever since.

Cole: How is that, going up against Fall League-caliber hitters with a new pitch and being unable to use your previously reliable curveball?

Jones: You feel wounded out there. Especially when you know you have to throw it. The only way you know it's going to get better is if you keep throwing it. You throw a good one and then throw six bad ones—it's tough. But like I said, you go to the Fall League and yeah, it's a great league. But it's also something that you've got to work on. It is extra base ball, so I took it where I would take my lumps and know I'd be better in the long run. It was tough, but you've got to keep going at it.

Cole: It seemed like you were throwing the slider quite a bit in your last outing. How comfortable do you feel with it right now?

Jones: I feel like game-by-game I'm getting more confidence and it's getting better. Last night I mixed it in to a few righties. I'm just learning what to do with it. I don't exactly know what it is yet. I know it's a good pitch to lefties, but I'm still learning it and feeling it out. I'm still getting command and stuff like that.

Cole: The changeup is something you almost always throw to get righties out and the slider you use more against lefties. Do you ever use lefty-on-lefty changeups?

Jones: If the time calls for it. Obviously you could run a ball away from a righty and run it the other way for a lefty then use that. But yeah, I mix it in. Whenever I'm feeling it. I trust the catchers, watch the guys' swings and throw the pitch that I feel is right at that time.

Cole: You didn't throw any sliders to righties until your third inning. Like last night, when you know that you're going to have to give the bullpen more than one inning, do you approach it more like a start?

Jones: I got out of that. When I was a starter, you always wanted to try and get through three or four innings with two pitches if you can. Don't show the third one as much as you want. But now, coming out of the bullpen, yeah I went three innings, but I was throwing it all from the get-go. That's just how much approach is now out of the bullpen. I just throw the sink as soon as possible trying to get guys out. If it's nine outs, three outs or one out, I'm going to show it. I'm not going to save much.

Cole: How do you feel the slider has benefitted you as a pitcher over the curveball?

Jones: The curveball was just so slow. It might have been tight, it might have been good. But the hitter always battled it. He always fought it off. With the slider, it has almost given me like a put-away pitch to lefties. It's not a put-away pitch yet, but it has given me another aspect to throw at them. When it is good, I'm getting some swings and misses and stuff like that. It has definitely added another aspect to my game.

Cole: There was one slider you threw in the second inning (?) that struck a batter out looking. It looked a little more like a curveball and was a little slower, at 75 mph. Was that intentional or was it just a slider that slipped?

Jones: You hit it right on the head, it was a bad pitch. I got away with one. That's just a learning thing. I can't throw it the same every time, but I'm going to try to get there. Sometimes it comes out a little loopy, but for the most part it is getting pretty true.

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