He won't be doing it right away, at least. Manager Jim Leyland said before Friday's series opener against the Orioles that he would prefer to use him in a different situation for his first day back, having gone two weeks without pitching in a game. He found himself working the ninth inning Friday in what was a 5-2 game before two errors, three hits and three walks fueled a six-run O's rally.
With the return out of the way, the closer's role remains undefined.
"I might use [Fernando] Rodney some," Leyland said. "I might use [Kyle] Farnsworth some. I might use Jones some. Obviously, [Joel] Zumaya would've been in that mix."
Zumaya was in the mix along with Rodney and Farnsworth before persistent shoulder trouble landed him on the disabled list earlier this week.
Jones entered Friday's game after Aubrey Huff singled off Casey Fossum leading off the ninth. He quickly retired Ramon Hernandez, but Kevin Millar's double and an intentional walk to Jay Payton loaded the bases for the O's to break it open. A Miguel Cabrera fielding error and a Placido Polanco double-play throw that Montanez seemingly deflected helped set up runs before Melvin Mora singled in two runs and Huff added another.
Jones threw 38 pitches, 20 of them for strikes. It's unlikely he'll be available for Saturday.
"I thought he was OK," Leyland said afterwards. "He had one of those freak innings. Stuff like that's been happening all year. You want to get him out there, hopefully get two or three quick outs, not throw many pitches. But there's nothing you can do about it."
If and when Jones gets a save chance, it'll be his first since he was pulled out of full-time closer duty in late July. He went 18-for-21 in save opportunities, but struggled from late June into July, in part because he was battling inflammation in his shoulder. Rodney initially took over the closer's role, but it has essentially been a mix-and-match situation over the last few weeks. Detroit has two saves since the switch, both from Rodney.
Jones' return came at the expense of Freddy Dolsi, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo to make room. The young right-hander was called up at the beginning of May for an injured Denny Bautista and ended up staying longer than anyone could've anticipated, but he had a 5.91 ERA and nine walks over 10 2/3 innings after the All-Star break after posting a 3.21 ERA and better control numbers beforehand.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less