After months of dedicated training and an extended delay to the start of the baseball season due to COVID-19, local veteran relief pitcher Nate Jones has been officially named to the Opening Day roster for the Cincinnati Reds.
The club made its final transaction decisions on July 18 with Jones getting the nod that he’ll join his teammates at Great American Ballpark when they host the Detroit Tigers on July 24 to begin the abbreviated 60-game dash to the postseason. Upon learning the news that he made the roster, Jones spoke to reporters to describe the opportunity that lies ahead of him.
“I’m very excited and thankful for this opportunity. I know it’s something that a lot of people get to experience. This has been a long journey back but it has been very worth it. Manager David Bell pulled me into his office to let me know I had made the team and that meant a lot. I thought I had done my part as a pitcher in attacking hitters in spring training a few months ago, and then again once we were able to practice together again. I’m just glad to be able to do this close to home so that other people can get to experience this with me,” Jones said.
For Jones, the chance to be able to come back to his home in Pendleton County following home games is something that he’ll take full advantage of while a member of the Reds.
“It’s definitely nice to be able to go home from the ballpark and sleep in your own bed. I know very few guys in our game get that opportunity. It’s nice to use that 40-minute drive home to unwind after practice and then use the time to get mentally prepared as I’m coming in during the mornings,” he explained.
Reds skipper David Bell raved about Jones skillset and intangibles he’ll bring to his bullpen. He also got to experience a homecoming of sorts last year when he took over managing the team he grew up rooting for and watching his father Buddy Bell play for.
“We knew what he had done in his career and what he could help us not only being on the staff but a guy we could rely on. The experience of pitching late in games and big situations. The big thing for us is whether Nate is healthy and he has shown that. He has shown he is healthy. The stuff is there and he has shown why he has been successful at this level for a long time.
Personally, we have gotten to know him and love him and add another dimension of a guy who has been there before with experience. He is going to make our team better on the field. But having him in the bullpen around our other relievers is something we are very grateful to have,” Bell said.
Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali, who make up the Reds catching tandem described what its been like catching for Jones, who has been known throughout his career for having a not-so-conventional delivery to the plate.
“He’s funky and its a good funky. It’s his arm action. For me, when I describe funky, there are a bunch of arms and legs that are coming at you while you are at the plate. It’s not like an old Iron Mike pitching machine coming at you. Nate has a really funky arm action that works for him and he is fun to catch. His fastball really gets on you but his slider is really good. I caught him on Saturday night and actually first time I had caught him in a game. I think we threw 75% or more sliders. Guys just weren’t seeing it. In the past I think that has been his best pitch and I think that holds true. He has been there and done that and he is going to be a big part of our bullpen,” Barnhart said.
Casali spoke of the value Jones experience in pitching in high-pressure situations will add to a Reds bullpen that will be counted on to finish games behind a formidable starting pitching staff.
“I think it is cool thing that he gets to rebound with us. He already has a ton of success at the big leagues. He has an unique motion and he looks like his slider was really on yesterday and that is a wipeout pitch for him. Adding Nate Jones and a guy like Pedro Stoop to the bullpen adds a nice level of leadership to the bullpen that you cannot quantify. He has been there and we need guys to learn how to do it from guys that have been there,” Casali explained.
The Reds final tune-up before the start of the regular season will be a pair of exhibition games versus the Tigers on July 21 and 22. Both games will be broadcast on 700 WLW radio (no TV). Longtime color commentator Jeff Brantley is expected to be on the mic joined by new lead play-by-play broadcaster, Tommy Thrall, who joined the staff last year. He replaces legendary hall of fame announcer Marty Brennaman.