ANAHEIM -- It has been two years since Nate Jones served as a Minor League starting pitcher, but the 26-year-old right-hander continues to reap the benefits from those 28 trips to the mound.
Jones was part of the 2010 rotation for Class A Winston-Salem, posting an 11-6 record with a 4.08 ERA over 152 1/3 innings. That stint taught him about being a pitcher, not just a thrower with a 99 or 100 mph fastball, which was the organizational intent behind using him in that manner after he worked 45 games in relief during the previous season.
"When I started, I had to throw all my secondary pitches like the slider, curveball and changeup," Jones said. "It did nothing but help me develop those pitches and get a feel for those pitches.
"I carried it on last year in Double-A when I relieved, mixed them all in right away. Luckily enough, I've been able to do that here as well."
As one of the true surprises among the American League crop of rookies, Jones has tossed 19 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over his last 18 appearances to mark the longest such current streak in the AL. His ERA has dropped from 3.45 to 2.44, to go with his 8-0 record and 59 strikeouts over 66 1/3 innings.
Pointing to the slider as a strong reason for success, getting opposing hitters away from his high-octane fastball, Jones talked about developing that pitch by mixing it in as a starter. That plan two years ago now is paying dividends for the American League Central leaders.
"If you can throw it for strikes, most of the time they just look at it because they are looking for a heater," said Jones of the slider. "But all I wanted to do since Spring Training was just prove I could throw strikes, make the team and help the team any way I can."