Out With The Curve, In With The Split

2004 fourth round draft pick Jason Jones was seemingly on the fast track through the Yankee system after a combined 5-4 record with an 2.61 ERA with Staten Island and Battle Creek in his first professional season. But after a horrid 2005 campaign that saw Jones go 5-13 with a 5.68 ERA, his future was in serious doubt.

"It was frustrating. I had a pretty good first season in the pros and then last year I really struggled. I think by the end of the year all the bad outings I had really took a toll on my confidence," said the newly promoted Thunder starter Jason Jones.

Jones, who is one of many great control pitchers in the Yankee system, points to the learning of new pitching mechanics as the main reason for the struggles in Tampa last season.

"My pitching coach and the Yankee pitching coordinator were trying to iron out a lot of the problems I had in my mechanics. It was one of those situations where you had to take one step back to take two steps forward," said Jones.

Despite the awful 2005 season, Jones worked hard in the offseason to regain the success he had in 2004. This season with Tampa, Jones compiled a 9-2 record with a 2.55 ERA in 88 and one-third innings of work.

The great start and promotion of Thunder ace Jeff Karstens led to the July 11th promotion to double-A Trenton.

"In the spring and early this season I tried to go back to basics and stick to the new mechanics I was taught last season. When you're a pitcher, if one little thing is wrong, you're going to be off, so I really tried to keep complete focus on keeping everything perfect and not being sloppy with what I was taught," said Jones.

"The biggest difference this year is that I'm making better pitches in better locations. Last season whenever I got in trouble I just tried to throw hard. So instead of fixing things I was just trying to throw hard so it was like a double edge sword."

As of last season, Jones's pitch repertoire consisted of a low 90's two-seam sinking fastball, a great late breaking slider, an often-hanging curve, and an undeveloped changeup. But this spring, Jones lost the curveball and brought back the splitter he threw in college at Liberty University.

"Taking away the curve gave me a lot more time to work on my slider and it's gotten a lot better," said Jones. "This year I started to throw a split-finger which I used to throw in college but went away from once I went pro. The splitter has been my ground ball and strikeout pitch. In the past, I never really had a strikeout pitch. So with the splitter, it's made things a lot easier on me."

Although the changeup is not to the caliber Jones or the Thunder staff would like the consistency of, the pitch has taken off when compared to last year.

"The changeup is still a pitch I have to work on constantly. It's never a been a great pitch but it's always something I'm working on and wanting to improve. It is far from what it needs to be, but it's getting a lot better," said Jones.

"The first thing I've noticed is you don't get away with mistakes up here. If you leave the ball up or on the inside of the plate, the hitters are going to make you pay for it. In the Florida State League, the hitters might just foul off your mistakes but up here they'll make you pay," said Jones.

"One of the big things for me is to learn how to make better mistakes. I want to miss down or outside instead of leaving my mistakes over the plate."

Thunder Manager Bill Masse has seen very little of Jason Jones but the little he has seen has impressed him.

"I really don't know that much about him. I saw him pitch his first start and in Spring Training. He's in a situation where he's taking Karstens' spot in the rotation, but I don't want him to feel added pressure because of that," said Thunder Manager Bill Masse. "He's a strike thrower who mixes in a lot of good off-speed stuff. From what I saw in his first outing, he looks like a guy who can really help us out."

In life and baseball you are often judged on your ability to bounce back from tough situations and Jason Jones has seemingly bounced back tremendously from a rough 2005 campaign.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"It was frustrating. I had a pretty good first season in the pros and then last year I really struggled. I think by the end of the year all the bad outings I had really took a toll on my confidence,\" said the newly promoted Thunder starter Jason Jones.
\r\n
\r\nJones, who is one of many great control pitchers in the Yankee system, points to the learning of new pitching mechanics as the main reason for the struggles in Tampa last season.
\r\n
\r\n\"My pitching coach and the Yankee pitching coordinator were trying to iron out a lot of the problems I had in my mechanics. It was one of those situations where you had to take one step back to take two steps forward,\" said Jones.
\r\n
\r\nDespite the awful 2005 season, Jones worked hard in the offseason to regain the success he had in 2004. This season with Tampa, Jones compiled a 9-2 record with a 2.55 ERA in 88 and one-third innings of work.
\r\n
\r\nThe great start and promotion of Thunder ace Jeff Karstens led to the July 11th promotion to double-A Trenton.
\r\n
\r\n\"In the spring and early this season I tried to go back to basics and stick to the new mechanics I was taught last season. When you're a pitcher, if one little thing is wrong, you're going to be off, so I really tried to keep complete focus on keeping everything perfect and not being sloppy with what I was taught,\" said Jones.
\r\n
\r\n\"The biggest difference this year is that I'm making better pitches in better locations. Last season whenever I got in trouble I just tried to throw hard. So instead of fixing things I was just trying to throw hard so it was like a double edge sword.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs of last season, Jones's pitch repertoire consisted of a low 90's two-seam sinking fastball, a great late breaking slider, an often-hanging curve, and an undeveloped changeup. But this spring, Jones lost the curveball and brought back the splitter he threw in college at Liberty University.
\r\n
\r\n\"Taking away the curve gave me a lot more time to work on my slider and it's gotten a lot better,\" said Jones. \"This year I started to throw a split-finger which I used to throw in college but went away from once I went pro. The splitter has been my ground ball and strikeout pitch. In the past, I never really had a strikeout pitch. So with the splitter, it's made things a lot easier on me.\"
\r\n
\r\nAlthough the changeup is not to the caliber Jones or the Thunder staff would like the consistency of, the pitch has taken off when compared to last year.
\r\n
\r\n\"The changeup is still a pitch I have to work on constantly. It's never a been a great pitch but it's always something I'm working on and wanting to improve. It is far from what it needs to be, but it's getting a lot better,\" said Jones.
\r\n\r\n
\r\n\"The first thing I've noticed is you don't get away with mistakes up here. If you leave the ball up or on the inside of the plate, the hitters are going to make you pay for it. In the Florida State League, the hitters might just foul off your mistakes but up here they'll make you pay,\" said Jones.
\r\n
\r\n\"One of the big things for me is to learn how to make better mistakes. I want to miss down or outside instead of leaving my mistakes over the plate.\"
\r\n
\r\nThunder Manager Bill Masse has seen very little of Jason Jones but the little he has seen has impressed him.
\r\n
\r\n\"I really don't know that much about him. I saw him pitch his first start and in Spring Training. He's in a situation where he's taking Karstens' spot in the rotation, but I don't want him to feel added pressure because of that,\" said Thunder Manager Bill Masse. \"He's a strike thrower who mixes in a lot of good off-speed stuff. From what I saw in his first outing, he looks like a guy who can really help us out.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn life and baseball you are often judged on your ability to bounce back from tough situations and Jason Jones has seemingly bounced back tremendously from a rough 2005 campaign.
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