How much can Nate Jones handle?

Even as a Tetris piece, Jones is neither popular nor unpopular. - Dilip Vishwanat

The hard-throwing reliever exceeded expectations during a successful rookie season, but his ceiling is difficult to determine.

The White Sox broke camp with seven relievers last year, but they had difficulties flying in formation once the season started.

Consider!

  • Hector Santiago: Opened as closer, slid down the depth chart, spent a brief time in Charlotte, then returned as a spot starter.
  • Addison Reed: Opened as the bullpen's second right-handed setup man, took over the closer job, and his role was reduced at the end of the season.
  • Jesse Crain: Had three injuries and two DL stints.
  • Matt Thornton: Thornton luck.
  • Will Ohman: DFA'd.
  • Zach Stewart: Traded.

Only one guy spent the entire season generally undisturbed -- and he was the last guy to make the bullpen.

Nate Jones, the guy with the stilted delivery and track record of rocky control, experienced zero turbulence during his rookie season. He started the season as a low-leverage guy. He graduated to medium-leverage, and served stints in high-leverage work when Reed moved to the ninth inning and Crain couldn't shake a strain fast enough. The addition of Brett Myers gave Robin Ventura a way of never finding out too much about Jones during the last two months.

Jones stands out because of his 8-0 record, but there's little else about his performance that defines him. He dodged ruts well enough to avoid the "liability" label, but he wasn't good enough at cleaning up other relievers' messes to develop into a welcome sight, either.

He had ample opportunities to develop a reputation, given that he led White Sox relievers in innings and finished with his uniform number in appearances. But the "vulture" tag only describes the fluky nature of the game situations in which he found himself, although his recurring inherited-runner issue had a little to do with it.

This isn't a bad thing. Considering Jones' background and profile, a Teflon season is quite an accomplishment. But he looms large with the current bullpen this calendar year, including what's left of the offseason. If Addison Reed can't find a second pitch ... if Crain is traded, which is a suggestion I've seen floated around here and there ... if Crain has trouble staying healthy ... Jones is the incumbent "guy" for a much bigger bullpen job.

Is that a situation you're comfortable with?

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