Jones-ing For Bullpen Aid

Twins peg Yankees' Jason Jones for possible long relief role




MINNEAPOLIS—The Twins moved to bolster their bullpen options by taking Yankees righthander Jason Jones with the 21st pick in the major league Rule 5 draft.

The 26-year-old spent most of the 2008 season at Double-A Trenton, going 13-7, 3.33 in 25 starts.

Jones likely will be used as a long reliever, and the Twins will continue to eye trade targets as well as the free agent market for late-inning relievers. Though Jones, a 2004 fourth-round pick from Liberty, stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds, he is not a hard thrower. Instead he relies on pitch efficiency and keeping the ball on the ground.

"He's got a lot of pitchability and strike-ability," vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "He's always been in a starting role. The key will be if he's able to apply his pitches and tools to being a reliever."

But can Jones transition from a starting role to the bullpen? He has worked mostly as a starter in the minors and last season he tossed 160 innings, striking out 102 and walking 50, between Double-A and Triple-A.

It was a confidence-boosting season for Jones, who throws everything at opposing batters, including a low-90s four-seam fastball, a split-finger, a sinker, a slider and a curveball.

"Having confidence this year has been the biggest difference for me in my pitches and my mechanics," he said.

The Twins have to keep Jones on the 25-man roster all season or place him on waivers and offer him back to New York for half of the original $50,000 fee. The Twins also could shape a deal that would allow them to maintain Jones' rights while sending him to the minor leagues in 2009.

"He gives you a little insurance, if he can perform and make the team," director of pro scouting Vern Fallowell said. "If everything stays as is, then he would probably need to vie for the bullpen to stay with the club."

TWIN KILLINGS

• In the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft, the Twins selected 23-year-old righthander Henry Arias from the Reds. Arias went 5-7, 4.42 with 89-57 strikeouts-walks in 98 innings in the low Class A Midwest League.

• The Twins lost high Class A lefty Jose Lugo (to the Royals, who sold his rights to the Mariners), high Class A righthander David Shinske (Blue Jays) and Rookie-ball shortstop Juan Sanchez (Brewers) in the Rule 5 draft.