Jones is change of pace, but effective one

INSIDE PITCH

July 20, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

The more you see of Doug Jones, the more you come to realize that he brings into play just about every pitching theory imaginable.

The Orioles reliever has had something of a roller-coaster career, and he certainly doesn't fit the image of a closer. He definitely brings equal doses of surprise and excitement to the mound, but he also understands a lot about his art.

Most important of all, Jones realizes he cannot exist on one pitch alone. Regardless of how good it might be, a pitcher cannot survive with just a fastball, breaking ball, or some form of trick pitch, such as the changeup.

The changeup, of course, is Jones' specialty, though in his case the term is something of a misnomer. In baseball parlance, a changeup is a pitch that travels at a markedly different speed than those normally thrown by any given individual.

That being the case, the fastball, even though it's probably below major-league average velocity, is actually Jones' changeup. More so than his actual, much slower, changeup, it's the pitch he uses to change the tempo.

Which is really what pitching is all about -- disrupting the hitter's timing. And, no matter how fast or slow it is thrown, the fastball is still the most important, and effective, pitch. If you can't use the fastball to get batters out, you can't pitch in the big leagues. It's as simple as that.

Jones uses the pitch sporadically -- he's more likely to throw his off-speed pitch when he's behind in the count. But make no mistake, Jones couldn't survive if he couldn't rely on what passes as his fastball -- even in the most crucial of situations.

The best example, and most recent before last night's game in Minnesota, came two nights ago during the final at-bat in the Orioles' 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers. With the tying run at second base, Juan Gonzalez emerged as a pinch hitter, representing the winning run.

There is no more feared fastball hitter in baseball than Gonzalez, whether it be propelled by Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens or the nearest launching pad. He has the ability to hit the fastest fastballs downtown and the mediocre ones into the next ZIP code.

It stood to reason then, that the last thing Gonzalez could expect to see from Jones was a fastball that he could reach. Right?

Wrong.

First pitch -- fastball in for a called strike. Second pitch -- fastball away, fouled off for strike two.

With the count 0-and-2, would Jones dare throw a third straight fastball? Of course not. Or would he?

Jones had created the element of doubt with the first pitch and sealed it with the second. Now came the payoff pitch -- the off-speed delivery that appears to defy the law of gravity -- down and away, out of the strike zone, but too tempting to ignore.

Ground ball, third out, game over. Another somewhat shaky save for Jones, who once again has offered evidence to support the two most popular theories of pitching.

You have to be able to use the fastball in critical situations, and you have to change speeds.

Jones reduces it to a simple science -- he accomplishes both with the same pitch.

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