06/22/08 5:30 PM ET
Crafty Jones credits game plan
Closer takes 15th place on all-time saves list, points to longevity
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
With back-to-back saves Saturday and Sunday, Jones passed Nen for 15th place on the all-time saves list with 315. Still, he wasn't planning on making much of it.
"I don't think of me and him in the same category," Jones said. "I think I'm just a guy that was just able to last a little bit longer and just through attrition was able to throw up numbers, not that kind of dominance.
"You can run the numbers of Robb Nen and run the numbers of me, and they're not close. It's going to take my entire work in my career to be able to have people think, 'Yeah, he was all right.' When you think of Robb Nen, it's instantaneous."
Nen racked up all of his saves over a nine-year span, capping it with three straight 40-save seasons before injuries halted his career after the Giants' trip to the World Series in 2002. Jones actually made his Major League debut in 1993, the same season as Nen, but Jones has 11 seasons with double-digit saves, including 14-for-14 so far this year. He also pitched three seasons in between closer jobs in which he was out of the closer's role and nearly out of the game.
"I can't really take much credit for being healthy," Jones said. "That's more of a God thing than me, anyway. You try to be ready every time the bell rings. I try to take care [of myself]. I try to give myself a chance, stretching and lifting and stuff like that, you just have to do. But you can't take any credit for having an arm that can withstand. My mechanics are terrible, but my body can absorb it. I can't really take credit for any of that. I just learned what I need to get ready."
Sunday's save was a microcosm of how Jones has kept going. He was toppled a Jody Gerut bouncer off the outside of his right knee, inches away from what would've been a devastating injury if it had hit his kneecap. Instead, he got up, remained in the game an induced a ground-ball double play on the next day on his way to retiring the side.
Especially as a closer, though, Jones is more than simply a survivor. He's someone who has endured over the years by changing his approach to the type of pitcher he has become with age and doing what he could to stay competitive.
At age 40, it takes more than simple health and physical conditioning. Unlike his younger years, it takes a game plan.
"It's a whole lot more mental now than it is physical," Jones said. "I used to try to throw as hard as I could, throw stuff up on the wall. Whatever stuck, that's what I went with. Now I've got a game plan and a formula for trying to get people out and understanding what I'm trying to do. It's easier physically, but it's harder mentally.
"I couldn't do it just physically anymore. I have to go out there and think, mix and match, change speeds."
His manager appreciates it. So, too, will the raw numbers in the record books. Jones should keep gaining spots on the all-time list as the summer continues -- Rick Aguilera is next up at 14th with 318 saves -- and has an outside chance to crack the top 10. Rollie Fingers and Troy Percival are tied for ninth at 341.
"Closers, they've got a real tough life, really," manager Jim Leyland said. "They blow one save and everybody's on them. It's do or die for them all the time. Obviously, he's been at it for a long time."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.