Rangers lefty James Jones sustained a torn patellar tendon in his right knee Monday, tweets TR Sullivan of MLB.com. The injury occurred when Jones tripped over one of his son’s toys at home, Sullivan adds. He’s expected to be sidelined until Spring Training 2021 after undergoing surgery to repair the tendon.
Jones, 31, reached the Majors in 2014-15 with the Mariners as an outfielder and hit .238/.268/.296 in a total of 359 plate appearances. His struggles at the plate were obvious, but he did possess well above-average speed and baserunning prowess, evidenced by a 28-for-30 record in stolen base attempts across 136 MLB games.
Unlike others who have attempted to work their way to the big leagues as a two-way player, Jones is now focused solely on mound work. He began exploring the possibility of pitching in 2016 and by 2018 had converted to a relief pitcher on a full-time basis. Jones’ 2018 season was ugly, to say the least (7.34 ERA in 30 2/3 innings), but in 2019 he proved that the experiment could be worthwhile.
In 64 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year, Jones pitched to an excellent 2.67 ERA with a 71-to-30 K/BB ratio while allowing only six home runs. Over his final 31 appearances (45 innings), he turned in an even more eye-catching 1.40 ERA. Lefties were utterly helpless against him (.163/.267/.283), and right-handed hitters didn’t fare particularly well themselves (.218/.333/.338).
It’s a brutal injury for a player who appeared to have a legitimate chance at returning to the big leagues after spending three years overhauling his skill set and reinventing himself as a player. His strong showing in 2019 should earn him another look down the road — be it with Texas or another organization.