CHICAGO -- The return of Chris Sale to the White Sox starting rotation Saturday night didn't work out quite as well as Nate Jones' career-high 2 1/3-inning scoreless relief stint.
Jones fanned four in posting his fourth straight scoreless appearance, a streak that ended in Sunday's 9-1 loss to the Royals, when he gave up Jeff Francoeur's solo homer, and ninth scoreless outing in 11 trips to the mound this season.
Throwing strikes has been the key for Jones, a right-hander with a fastball that gets up near 100 mph. But it has been more of a mental adjustment than a physical change in finding the strike zone.
"I just go out there and the big thing for me is throwing strikes, just pumping in strikes, putting the pressure on hitters and letting the defense do their job," Jones said. "[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] and [bullpen coach] Juan [Nieves] have just challenged me mentally, going in there and pumping in strike one, getting the first two out of three pitches in for strikes.
"We've really been concentrating on that. Last night I had a really good rhythm with A.J. [Pierzynski] going and we just kept coming after the hitters. It's more focus mentally and just coming out and attacking."
Everything for Jones works off of establishing his high-octane fastball, but getting his offspeed pitches in for strikes makes it much harder on opposing hitters. Jones also admits to gaining a higher level of confidence as his rookie season has progressed.
"Those first couple of times I'm not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous coming in Texas and here, both of them being opening weekends," Jones said. "I've calmed down a little bit, and have learned to trust my stuff and do my thing out there."