GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With Hector Santiago taking one of the three open bullpen spots, two remain open with Zach Stewart, Brian Bruney, Nate Jones and left-hander Eric Stults in the pool for the last two.
Jones, a 6-5, 185-pound Kentuckian drafted in the fifth round by the Sox in 2007, possesses a mid-90s fastball and for several years the highest-rated curve in the organization. His 15 strikeouts rank among the leaders in the Cactus League. Jones was both surprised and happy to hear that fact.
"All I'm trying to do is make it a hard choice for them [to decide],'' said Jones, who pitched a scoreless inning against the Dodgers on Monday. "All I concentrate on is throwing strikes.''
Jones is the mix but probably not at the top of the list of candidates to make the team. There's a good chance he'll be seen in a Sox uniform during the season at some point, however.
After getting a team-high 12 saves at AA Birmingham in 2011, Jones played in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He said that helped him jump right into camp without having to find his arm slot. With 173 walks in 397 minor-league innings, control has been Jones' bugaboo. He had walked four in 8 1/3 innings this spring going into his scheduled relief appearance against the Dodgers Monday, but his stuff is impressive.
Roster cuts are expected Wednesday.
"Spring training has been awesome,'' Jones said. "I'm just taking what I did in Winter Ball and using it here. That has helped a lot. Instead of taking four months off not throwing and having to find your arm slot, I've been able to keep throwing strikes.''