Jones works scoreless inning in debut
Former NFL draft pick returns to competitive action for Reds
By Josh Jackson / Special to MiLB.com
If the name of Reds prospect Chad Jones rings a bell, it's because he was a third-round pick of the Giants in 2010.
The New York Giants.
The football Giants.
The 24-year-old left-hander made his professional debut as a baseball player on Friday night. He'd last thrown a pitch in a competitive game for Louisiana State during the 2009 College World Series, but he showed no signs of rust while tossing a scoreless inning for the Arizona League Reds in an 11-3 loss to the Indians.
"It was a great feeling," Jones said. "Tonight, I felt natural and comfortable out there and the ball was coming out pretty good."
Two months after the 2010 NFL draft, Jones suffered a broken left fibula, tibia and heel in a car accident that effectively ended his football career. He persisted for two years, but after workouts with the Giants, Eagles and Saints, he returned to baseball. He'd been taken by the Astros in the 13th round of the 2007 Draft and again by the Brewers in the 50th round in 2010.
With his football career behind him, the Reds grabbed in the ninth round last month, even though he was three years away from the game.
"I started throwing three or four months before the Draft and I had one big workout with five to nine scouts," Jones said. "I was throwing between 88-91 [mph] and I threw 30 pitches. After the workout, I was really confident as far as being able to get a chance to pitch in pro ball. The Cincinnati Reds took me way earlier than I thought I was going to go, though. That shows you how much they believe in me."
Jones began to affirm that faith on Friday in Goodyear, Ariz., coming on in the sixth inning and striking out the first batter he faced.
"That was definitely huge," he said. "I got a little pumped up, just a little carried away. That's the best way I could have started my pro career. I wasn't too pumped up, though. I knew what the task at hand was. I knew I had to focus and calm down. I learned that from playing competitive sports for so long."
Gerald Bautista followed with a single to right field, but Jones wasn't rattled.
"I played in front of thousands and thousands of people, in both football and baseball," he said, adding that playing in the Rookie-level AZL provides a different atmosphere.
"It was a smaller crowd than what I was used to, but I was able to focus in on my catcher [J.R. Reynolds]. We have good chemistry and we've been working together for two or three weeks. Coach [Derrin] Ebert has been working with me day in and day out, and I've been working with [assistant pitching coach] Elmer Dessens, too. And I've been learning from some of the younger guys, too. Having been away for a while, I've been able to learn from them."
Jones retired the next two Indians on fly balls.
"Being in the system, being in this organization these last few weeks got me prepared," he said. "It felt good to be able to get to throw all my pitches."
Training with the Reds coaching staff in Arizona has been hard work, Jones added, but in some ways it was no different than what he's already experienced.
"We report around 1:30 or 1:45 and we're here all the way until 11 p.m., working out there in the heat," he said. "I'm used to the long days. I'm used to long amounts of time on a field. It's basically second nature to me. One of those days, though, it was 114 [degrees] and I think it was 120 another day."
Through the heat, he's focused on taking baby steps in an attempt to again reach the highest level of his sport.
"As of right now, I'm making short-term goals," the 24-year-old left-hander said. "My long-term goal is to play in the Major Leagues. If I just look at that long-term goal, though, it will never come. My short-term goal was to get on the mound and be comfortable, and I did that today.
"Now it's about pitching for performance, about getting strikeouts and getting the ball to go where I want it to go, even if I just get it to come off the bat on the side of the field I want the ball to be on."