Jones defends quick hook in near-flawless outing

Bucs' No. 3 prospect fine with inning count, throws 50 strikes in 5 scoreless 1-hit frames

April 17th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Right-hander , ranked as the No. 3 prospect in Pittsburgh’s system and No. 57 in baseball by MLB Pipeline, had the best outing of his big league career on Tuesday night.

However, Jones received a no-decision in the Bucs’ 3-1 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. It marked the first time the Pirates lost two consecutive games on the road.

“[Jones] is one of our good young pitchers, as he demonstrated today,” manager Derek Shelton said.

A 1-0 lead lost in the seventh inning spoiled a great outing from Jones. He threw 59 pitches, and only nine weren’t for strikes. Jones knew going into the game that he was pitching just five innings. Shelton acknowledged that he is on an innings limit.

“Do you want to see me down the road or do you want to see me get shut down? That’s what I think of it,” Jones said. “It all makes sense the way he worded it and told me. It’s awesome that they are looking out for me, my health. It’s a good thing to see.”

The Mets had a tough time figuring out Jones, who allowed only one hit -- Pete Alonso’s leadoff bloop double in the second. Jones then retired the next 12 hitters before leaving the game.

Jones has a four-pitch arsenal -- fastball, curveball, slider and changeup -- that couldn’t be touched.

"Hopefully, it's one of those that he's healthy. You think about potential injury or something,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said. “There might be some innings limits. But that's a special arm there."

Jones left the game with a 1-0 lead, thanks to an RBI single by Bryan Reynolds.

“We had a pitch count on him today,” Shelton said. “We knew going into the game, it would be five [innings]. ... This kid is really important to us. ... He was really good.

“When you are really good and you make a decision like that, people are going to wonder what’s going on. He is healthy. He is good. It was something predetermined.”

With Pittsburgh leading by a run going into the bottom of the seventh, right-hander Luis Ortiz had problems during his second inning on the mound. Francisco Lindor reached on a walk and Alonso followed with a single to left before pinch-hitter Joey Wendle doubled down the left-field corner, scoring Lindor and tying the game at 1.

After Francisco Alvarez’s flyout to left, Ortiz was taken out of the game in favor of left-hander Jose Hernandez. With Jeff McNeil at the plate, Hernandez committed a balk, which allowed Alonso to score the go-ahead run.

Hernandez started to deliver the pitch, but then suddenly stopped.

“That really was a balk,” Shelton said. “The umpires did a good job. The reason the umpires got together, which everyone wonders, was to make sure [McNeil] was in the box. If he is not in the box and engaged, it can’t be a balk, yet, because time is not in play. It was a balk.”

New York then added to the lead when McNeil flickered a double down the left-field corner to score Wendle.

“If you go back and look at it, we have to stay away from walks,” Shelton said. “The [walk] hurt us. We get the first-pitch out on a ground ball and then we get a walk. We have to stay away from walks and it came back to bite us.”