Reliever Jones nears rehab assignment

Right-hander battling back from Tommy John surgery

Reliever Jones nears rehab assignment

CHICAGO -- Nate Jones is close to going on a Minor League injury rehab assignment, per comments made by manager Robin Ventura prior to Monday's White Sox contest with the Blue Jays.

"I know he's going to go out this week and start pitching again and from there you see how he does," said Ventura. "It's not accelerated because he looked good throwing out here. There's a plan there and you're going to stick with it."

Jones, 29, made two appearances last season and didn't retire a hitter. He battled back issues in Spring Training and early on in 2014 that led to a microdiscectomy on May 5, and he then had Tommy John surgery on July 29.

Since that point, the hard-throwing right-hander has been making slow but steady progress. He threw a simulated game Monday, games which have been taking place pretty much every couple of days since the second week of June, and drew rave reviews for the effort.

"Velocity, just coming out of his hand, was better than you could expect from where he was and what he's doing now," Ventura said. "Velocity-wise, he could probably go pitch right now, but just the feel of it, throwing strikes, slider, offspeed stuff, not quite the feel you'd like him to have to be able to pitch for us. But coming out of his hand, he's excited. It's fun to see him go out there and throw like that."

"It's all been about recovery. There's been nothing alarming, and knock on wood, I haven't had a so-called setback. I've been hitting my marks and moving right along," Jones said. "I feel like we're getting close. I threw the sim game, and I had some adrenaline going, so we're going to see how the next two days go."

Jesse Crain has made six appearances with the Arizona Rookie League White Sox and has been working on his rehab with Jones in Arizona. Jones said that Crain's presence has helped as sort of a mentor in the process. Jones wants to get back as soon as possible, with the itch growing stronger being around his teammates again, but he won't rush the end of this long but successful road.

"When I come back, personally, I want to be 100 percent," Jones said. "I don't want any more growing pains or taking it easy with me. I want to be able to out of the chute, come out and throw back-to-back days and throw whenever I'm at. When you see me come back, I'm ready to go."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.