Jones almost unhittable in Fightins debut

Lefty Phillies prospect allows one single, whiffs 12 in six innings

Damon Jones led the Florida State League with a 1.54 ERA and 88 strikeouts prior to his promotion. (Nathan Ray/Clearwater Threshers)

By Brian Stultz / | June 16, 2019 7:03 PM

If first impressions last, then Damon Jones will be remembered for a while for his Eastern League debut.

The left-handed Philadelphia prospect struck out 12 while allowing a run on one hit over six frames as Double-A Reading defeated Harrisburg, 2-1, at FNB Field on Sunday afternoon.

Video: Fightins' Jones strikes out 12th batter

Jones sat down the first nine batters of the game before giving up a leadoff walk to Hunter Jones in the fourth frame. A single by second-ranked Nationals prospect Luis Garcia moved Jones to third base and Austin Davidson drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

"Going into it, I felt pretty good," the 24-year-old said. "My bullpen before the game was decent after [Fightin Phils pitching coach Aaron Fultz] told me I was rushing it a little bit. I slowed down and brought that into the game. I had a good first two innings to kind of get my feet wet, and after that, it was pretty smooth sailing until the fourth. Even that, getting out of it with only one run, I was pretty happy with that too."

Gameday box score

The Senators couldn't muster any more offense against the Washington State product. Jones retired the final eight -- seven via strikeout -- to finish his outing.

"The heater was a good one," the 2017 eighth-round pick said. "I got quite a few looking on the outside corner. The slider and curveball were good for me as well today, and even the changeup showed up a little bit. I only threw a handful, but it was a good pitch to keep them off the heater."

Despite joining a new team against new opponents, Jones wasn't surrounded by unfamiliar faces.

"There are a lot of guys that I have been teammates with before in terms of Lakewood or I have seen around Spring Training, so it was pretty comfortable," he said. "It wasn't a brand new world."

There was one significant change that had the pitcher feeling a little bit out of place -- having to get into the batters' box.

"I didn't have as many nerves as I thought I would, especially having to get in there and hit," Jones said, who struck out in both of his at-bats. "I didn't really have a good showing batting, but it felt good to get on the mound."

The 6-foot-5 lefty started the season at Class A Advanced Clearwater, leading the Florida State League with a 1.54 ERA and 88 strikeouts over 58 1/3 innings in the first half. Jones held opposing hitters to a .188 average while posting a 1.06 WHIP.

2019 MiLB include

But the third-year pro is focused on lasting longer during outings, having gone seven innings only once this season. He credits that to getting into a lot of high counts and continues to be aware of his base-on-balls rate.

"Keep my walks down," Jones said of his goal at this juncture. "It has been my killer, I guess, in terms of staying long into games. I've been going into full counts or walking guys, especially in my pro career so far. Getting batters out in three pitches or less is huge. Not striking everyone out, per se, but doing it in a quicker manner instead of taking guys 2-2, 3-2. That raises the pitch count up."

The Fightins got on the board on a solo homer by Henri Lartigue in the second. After the Senators tied the game in the fourth, Reading retook the lead for good in the eighth. Ninth-ranked Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak led off with a walk and crossed the plate on a double by Darick Hall.

Brian Stultz is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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