It might be hard to believe, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have used a whopping 16 pitchers in relief roles already this year. If you would have told any fan in the preseason that arms like Mike Kickham, Alex Vesia, and Edwin Uceta would throw in the major league bullpen before the calendar turned to June, chances are they would have been extremely skeptical.
As it stands, the team still has 13 players on the injured list, eight of them being pitchers. Surprisingly, five of those eight pitchers are on the 60-day IL. There could be a remote chance that righty veteran Corey Knebel sees action before the end of the year, but for all intents and purposes, Tony Gonsolin is the only name on the 60-day list who is expected to return.
One of the new and most interesting names to throw in relief for the Dodgers this year is 35-year-old veteran Nate Jones. The Kentucky native was signed as a minor league free agent by Los Angeles on May 14, and after making three appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City, he had his contract selected on May 21. After arriving at Oracle Park just an hour before the opener against the Giants on Friday, Jones entered the game and threw 1-1/3 frames of perfect relief, striking out two batters on 17 total pitches.
Jones was released by the Braves earlier in May after tossing 10-1/3 innings over 12 appearances. In those games, the righty struggled with command and walked 10 batters, which was perhaps one of the most critical reasons for his release. At the time, his season FIP was a monstrous 8.76.
Having attended Northern Kentucky University, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jones was originally drafted by the White Sox in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, making his MLB debut for them five years later in 2012. In all, he has registered 10 big league seasons, with the Dodgers being his fourth club.
Lifetime, Jones has posted a 22-16 record with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.255 WHIP over 318 games, striking out 350 batters against 126 walks. His best year came with the White Sox back in 2016 when he made an impressive 71 appearances, logging a 2.29 ERA and a 0.892 WHIP alongside 80 punchouts.
Jones had UCL surgery in 2015, prompting him to miss the entire season. After the procedure, arm problems persisted for him, leading to three more surgeries over the next five years, with the latest being a procedure to repair a forearm tear back in 2019.
Once being able to top out at 98 MPH in his younger days, Jones is still able to sit in the mid-nineties with both his four-seam and sinker. He uses an occasional slider, but the four-seam has become his bread and butter, specifically in the higher parts of the strike zone.
Obviously, Jones doesn’t have any options remaining on his contract, so if the Dodgers end up bumping him from the big-league roster at any point, it’ll likely be his last stint with the team. As far as other relievers go, all three of Brusdar Graterol, Scott Alexander, and Garrett Cleavinger are expected to be available soon. Gonsolin is rehabbing with OKC and is anticipated to rejoin the team’s starting rotation.
To create space on the 40-man roster for Jones, the Dodgers designated utility infielder Travis Blankenhorn for assignment just one week after claiming him off waivers from the Twins.