Jones returns with scoreless inning

Jones returns with scoreless inning

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Crisis averted, if there was one.

Todd Jones didn't think there was, but he also accepted that he had work to do after two rough outings in his previous three appearances, a stretch that led to a bullpen session on Tuesday to work out some issues. His return to game action on Thursday against the Braves was a more mundane inning of work in which he retired the side in order on two infield popouts and a groundout.

"It was good," Jones said afterward. "I made some decent pitches. It's something to build on, at least. I get ready for Saturday and see what happens there."

Jones started the top of the seventh inning by retiring Minor Leaguer Van Pope on a popout to second. Scott Thorman popped a 2-0 pitch to short, then Jones fell behind Brayan Pena on a 3-0 count before recovering for a called strike and then an inning-ending groundout to first.

Jones threw 11 pitches, five of them strikes. The arm strength that he said he was lacking earlier this week felt better this time around, he said, though he admitted he had a way to go on that. His next challenge, he said, will be to spot his secondary pitches.

"It's a process," he said. "There are steps I have to do to get ready. As you get older, you want to make sure you can still do those steps. Like I said, the minute after I had that last bad outing, [pitching coach] Chuck [Hernandez] and I went and looked at film, and I saw some bad things that I was doing.

"Maybe I need more innings in the spring now than I have. I'm going to have the chance to get five to seven more times off the mound, I think. So I think it'll be OK."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.