Former teammate Santiago happy for Jones

White Sox righty, who's overcome numerous injuries, earns first career save

Former teammate Santiago happy for Jones

CHICAGO -- When Nate Jones picked up his first career save with two perfect innings against the Angels on Tuesday night, Hector Santiago probably was smiling a bit over in the opposing dugout.

Santiago, the winning pitcher with 10 strikeouts and two hits allowed over seven innings Monday night, began his career as part of the White Sox organization. But while the southpaw's allegiance now lies with the Angels, he still supports his former teammate and good friend.

"We can be on the opposite team and I'll pull for him," the always upbeat Santiago said. "I pull for him 100 percent and want him to succeed and be the best he can be every day."

After a brief pause, Santiago added with a smile that he hoped the Angels scored just one run off him if they did score.

Jones has not given up much since returning from a microdiscectomy and then Tommy John surgery that cost him all but five batters in the 2014 season. Jones probably would have been the closer in '14, taking over for Addison Reed, if not for the myriad health issues.

Since his comeback last season, Jones has allowed eight runs on 13 hits over 22 innings. He has fanned 33 against seven walks, with a fastball averaging 96.6 mph in 2016 vs. 97.5 in '15, per Fangraphs. As Santiago and opposing hitters understand, there's more to Jones' repertoire than the hard stuff.

"His stuff is electric when he's healthy," Santiago said. "He can power you away, and he has one of the best sliders in the game. When he has confidence in the changeup, it can be really good. His stuff is unbelievable. He's one of the best out of the 'pen for sure, one of the best relievers in the game."

David Robertson serves as the White Sox closer and entered Wednesday with five saves in five opportunities. In Jones, though, the White Sox have a second closer for the seventh or eighth innings.

There's also support from friends in other baseball places for the 30-year-old who agreed to a three-year, $8 million extension in the offseason, with team options for '19, '20 and '21.

"That was awesome, man," Santiago said. "Going through what he went through last year, it was like, God, you pull for him. He comes back healthy and finishes the year last year and they kind of reward him for all the hard work he put in.

"It's great for him, great for his family. He deserves it. He works harder than any other guy in the game. If not the hardest, he works the equal. He's amazing. Great guy all around."

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