ARLINGTON -- The Rangers will need to rebuild their bullpen this offseason and may have a strong candidate to do so with veteran right-hander Nate Jones. They will spend the next two months getting a better read on his situation as he continues his recovery from surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon.
Jones joined the Rangers on Saturday, two days after being acquired from the White Sox in a complicated trade. The Rangers acquired Jones and $1 million in international bonus slot money in exchange for Minor League pitchers Ray Castro and Joe Jarneski.
It was a trade that caught Jones by surprise.
“Yeah, absolutely, that was the last thing I was thinking,” Jones said. “It’s part of the game. It is a business and things like this happen. That being said, I’m excited to be here and excited to get things going with the Rangers.”
Jones had the surgery on May 13 and will not start a throwing program until Sept. 13. The Rangers will have to decide at the end of the World Series if they are going to pick up a $5.15 million option on Jones for next season.
The Rangers almost certainly will decline the option and allow Jones to be a free agent. But that won’t keep them from pursuing him for a lesser amount.
“I know he’s got a really good arm,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Everything I’ve heard from people in Chicago, from players and staff, say he’s just phenomenal -- an unbelievable character guy. As far as pitching, he’s got a pretty electric arm.”
Jones, who spent eight seasons with the White Sox, can hit 96-97 mph with his fastball, but he has an unorthodox delivery and has had difficulty staying healthy. Jones has been on the injured list in five of the past six seasons.
He stayed healthy in 2016 and went 5-3 with three saves, a 0.89 WHIP and 2.29 ERA. Over his first two seasons with the White Sox in 2012-13, he compiled a 3.31 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He is 33 years old, but he's still determined to keep pitching.
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t have gone through this if I wasn’t,” Jones said. “I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of being healthy and pitching a full year healthy. That’s why we went ahead with the surgery. That’s why we are busting our tail with the rehab, and thankfully, I’m ahead of schedule. That’s why we are going through everything. Otherwise I would have said, 'I’m done. I’m not going to go through it.'"
Bird back in Nashville
The Rangers are back to seven relievers because they need the extra position player. That left left-hander Kyle Bird being sent back to Triple-A Nashville. Bird was on the Opening Day roster and has shuttled back and forth from Nashville.
This was the fifth time he has been sent down. He has pitched in 12 games for the Rangers and allowed 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings. He has given up 10 hits and walked 15.
“We view him pretty highly,” Woodward said. “He wouldn’t be back and forth if we didn’t. I love the kid. He’s eager to learn. There’s some things … Controlling his emotions. He’s very aggressive, kind of an emotional guy, especially when he competes. So we’re trying to not take that away, but at the same time, be able to do that while executing.
“It’s hard when there’s limited opportunities. I’ve told him that many times. Sometimes, that’s how you have to start and learn how to deal with it. If you sit for five days and don’t pitch and we ask you to go out and get a lefty, can you execute that? That’s my challenge to him every time we’ve sent him down.”
• Third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera has been placed on release waivers after being designated for assignment on Friday.
• Catcher Tim Federowicz has cleared outright waivers and has accepted an assignment to Nashville.
• Outfielder Carlos Tocci has been released at Nashville, where he was hitting .244/.313/.308. He played in 65 games with the Rangers last season as a Rule 5 Draft pick.
• Designated hitter Hunter Pence received the Rangers Heart and Hustle Award before Saturday’s game against the Tigers. The award is presented by the MLB Players Association, and the overall winner will be announced in the offseason.