Damon Jones Takes Command Of His Future
Back to his time in the Washington State rotation, even when he did not throw as hard as he throws now, Damon Jones knew the label that scouts applied.
He was 6-foot-5. He was lefthanded. He should have had more serious looks, but he never possessed the kind of command that warranted them.
"It's kind of been my downfall," Jones said.
It is why the Phillies have taken a closer look at Jones in recent weeks. The 18th-round pick in 2017 reached Double-A Reading halfway through his third pro season. That's about on schedule.
But Jones is 24 and has always been a little old for his surroundings. He spent the entire 2018 season at low Class A Lakewood and pitched well there against younger hitters. He saw an uptick in his fastball, which hovered in the mid-90s.
Then, he captured a new type of success at high Class A Clearwater.
"Obviously, his stuff was always pretty good," director of player development Rafael Chaves said. "Command was always the question mark. Now he's throwing the ball not only with authority, but he's commanding it."
Jones earned his promotion to the Eastern League not because of his sterling 1.54 ERA in 58.1 Florida State League innings, but more because he ditched his windup and worked exclusively out of the stretch. Jones walked 17 in his first five starts, then 11 in his next eight starts.
"It's a lot less moving parts," Jones said. "It's just easier to repeat. If I'm going to start commanding the zone, I'd rather have less moving parts."
The swing-and-miss stuff has always been there. Jones, who is from Idaho and splits his winters between there and Washington, took an interest near the end of his collegiate career in modern training methods espoused by Driveline Baseball. It's how he boosted his fastball velocity and found the right feel for his slider.
He posted a strikeout rate of 13.3 per nine innings through his first 14 starts that ranked second highest in the minors.
"Being around the zone more has helped," Jones said.
And, finally, it has put him on the radar.