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Perrotto: Pirates Prospect Jared Jones’ Uncles Had Him Pegged Wrong

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Jared Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates

Jared Jones had an advantage while growing up.

Jones, now one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top pitching prospects, could lean on two of his uncles for baseball advice. Randy and Ron Flores were both relief pitchers in the major leagues.

Randy Flores played for four teams during an eight-year career between 2002 and 2010 and is the assistant general manager and director of scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals. Ron Flores pitched for the Oakland Athletics from 2005-07.

While Jones grew up in La Mirada, Calif., his uncles lived in Las Vegas. However, Jones would see the Flores brothers in the summer when his travel ball teams played in Las Vegas.

The uncles had one piece of pitching advice for Jones.

“They always told me to keep the ball low,” Jones said.

He then paused and smiled.

“It turned out that I’m not that kind of pitcher,” Jones said. “I keep the ball up.”

Indeed, Jones’ lively four-seam fastball has turned him into a top-100 prospect. The pitch regularly sits at 95 mph and tops out at 99. It is complemented with an 85-mph slider, a curveball and a changeup that remains a work in progress.

Baseball America ranks Jones as the Pirates’ third-best prospect after fellow right-handers Paul Skenes and Bubba Chandler. Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com also have Jones at No. 3 behind Skenes and second baseman Termarr Johnson.

MLB.com places Jones at No. 62 on their top 100 prospects list. Baseball America ranks the 22-year-old as the 74th-best prospect in the game.

Jones is flattered by the high opinions of outsiders. However, he also understands the rankings do not affect what happens on the field.

“It’s cool to see but it’s just words on a piece of paper,” Jones said earlier in spring training in Bradenton, Fla. “My job is to go out there and shove every start and if that’s where it lands me then that’s where it lands me.”

Jones will likely return to Triple-A Indianapolis at the start of this season after making 15 starts and one relief appearance for the Indians to finish last season. However, he at least has an outside chance of winning one of the two open spots in the major-league rotation.

Jones is getting a chance to prove himself during Grapefruit League play.

Jones is scheduled to make his first start of the spring on Tuesday when he faces the Toronto Blue Jays in Bradenton. Jones has pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in two relief appearances.

“My plan this spring training (has been) to go out and throw the best I can and whatever happens, happens and when it comes, it comes,” Jones said of making the big-league club. “That’s out of my control. What is in my control is just going out there and trying to shove.”

The Pirates have expected Jones to shove since selecting him in the second round of the pandemic-shortened 2020 draft. His $2.2-million signing bonus was the second-highest among high school players that year.

Jones had hoped to go in the first round. However, scouts had a limited opportunity to watch him pitch during the shortened season.

“It was extremely frustrating, and I felt like I dropped in the draft for, really, no reason,” Jones said. “I’m happy with where I’m at but 2020 was just a really frustrating year overall. Having Zoom calls with scouting directors and general managers was very interesting but it wasn’t the same as talking to them face to face.”

Jones’ frustrations would get the best of him during starts early in his professional career. However, his mound presence improved considerably last season when he went 1-4 with a stellar 2.23 ERA in 10 starts for Altoona and then 4-5 with a 4.72 ERA with Indianapolis.

Adapting to the automated ball/strike system used at the Triple-A level took some time but Jones finished strong at Indy. His 146 total strikeouts tied fellow prospect Thomas Harrington for the lead among Pirates minor-league pitchers.

However, Jones says learning to channel his emotions hasn’t dampened his competitive fire.

“I don’t like losing,” Jones said. “I don’t like giving up hits. I don’t like giving up runs.”

Jones also doesn’t like keeping the ball down in the strike zone like his uncles advised.

“Being around them and having them in our family is really cool, though,” Jones said.

Even if they misread him as a young pitcher.

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