By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — White Sox relievers Nate Jones and David Robertson will be leaving the team this week to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.
It’s an experience the 31-year-old Jones has been anxiously awaiting.
“This is pretty exciting,” he said. “The time has come to get this thing going. We all want to represent our country well. While you are missing spring training, you are going to face other counties’ All- Star teams. The competition will be stiffer. You must stay within your own mechanical pitches. You want to compete and try not do more than you are capable of.”
The U.S. has never advanced to the championship round of the WBC since it was launched in 2006, and selling the event to the American fan base hasn’t been easy. Jones hopes that this time around, Team USA can open some more eyes and win more domestic love for the event.
“Hopefully, we can get the crowd behind us,” Jones said. “If our team advances, then we can get some momentum back in San Diego and L.A. (in the later rounds). When any team wins, it helps build a fan base.”
After missing nearly a year-and-a-half with elbow ligament replacement surgery, Jones had a solid comeback season in 2016, registering a 2.29 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 5.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 70 2/3 innings. The consensus is that Jones has closer’s stuff once again.
And if Robertson is indeed traded to a contender this season, it could be Jones called upon to fill that ninth-inning role. With his club now amid a rebuild, Jones is the longest-tenured player on the White Sox.
“We as a club know which way the rebuild is going,” Jones said. “Rick Renteria is doing a great job combining the veterans and the young guys together. He makes sure everybody mixes together. This is an exciting time here. Rick is making sure we are playing the game the right way. We can’t wait for these young guys to help us out at the major league level. We are all feeling good about the White Sox.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.