Rookie Jones drives in 4 as Guardians topple White Sox 8-4

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND – Following his memorable home debut, Nolan Jones introduced himself to the Guardians’ clubhouse staff. He wanted to make sure he knew all their names.

This rookie’s going to be around for a while.

Jones drove in four runs in his first game at Progressive Field, leading Cleveland to an 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series between the AL Central rivals.

A 24-year-old outfielder with a sweet left-handed swing, Jones hit a two-run single in the first inning off Lance Lynn (1-2). He then chased the right-hander by driving home two more runs with a double in the fifth.

“Really cool,” Jones said of his first game in Cleveland. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Obviously getting drafted here, got to come sign my contact here and then got to play in the Futures Game here, so I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Jones is batting .538 (7 for 13) with a homer – a 457-footer that splashed into Kansas City’s famous fountains on Saturday – and eight RBIs in four games since coming up from Triple-A Columbus.

Back from a 1-6 road trip to Detroit and Kansas City, the Guardians staked Cal Quantrill (5-5) to a five-run lead in the first and moved back to .500 (42-42).

Yoan Moncada hit a three-run homer as the White Sox began an eight-game trip leading into the All-Star break.

Jones, who has climbed through Cleveland’s organization since being drafted in 2016, came to the plate with the bases loaded for his first at-bat. He then delivered a broken-bat single as the Guardians scored five times off Lynn – all with two outs – in the first.

It was the kind of moment the Guardians envisioned for Jones, who has been slowed by injuries the past few seasons.

“He was rated our No. 1 prospect for a couple years,” manager Terry Francona said. “He just couldn’t stay healthy. Now, the hope is he can because when he got to Triple-A, he worked really hard on shortening his stroke because he was always able to kind of leverage the ball, but it was a little longer.

“Now, it’s shorter and he’s to the ball. It gets a little exciting.”

Cleveland’s big inning was triggered by Josh Naylor hustling down the line to beat out an infield single with two down. Franmil Reyes followed with an RBI single and Andres Gimenez walked before Jones, who was called up from the minors on Friday in Kansas City, blooped his single to center to make it 3-0.

Two batters later, Myles Straw brought in two more runs with a single off Lynn, who settled down but only lasted four innings.

“I don’t think he got beat up in that first inning,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He got the ground balls, they just found holes. It’s different if they’re centering it, but they didn’t. We hung in there. We came back. I like the way we competed.”

In the fifth, Reyes singled and Gimenez, a first-time All-Star, was hit by a pitch before Jones ripped his double to right-center. Straw followed with a hard comebacker that struck reliever Matt Foster and caromed into right field for an RBI.

Jones hasn’t needed long to make a strong impression on his teammates.

“Nolan has been like a lot of the rookies who have come up for us,” Quantrill said. “He’s been professional. Prepared to play at this level, committed to the approach that we bring and really just doing a good job.

“Just from what I’ve seen in these last three or four games, a really professional at-bat.”

STRAINED SOX

La Russa labeled the latest report about trouble inside the team’s clubhouse as “irritating.”

La Russa conceded the White Sox haven’t played up to expectations. However, he’s confident his “very tight” team is united and has the right leaders.

“I like the veterans and I like the way our young guys respond to their responsibilities and their willingness to step forward,” he said. “I think it’s a terrific mix. … Everybody has their own opinion. It’s like strategy. You win more arguments when you win.”

TARGET PRACTICE

Gimenez was one of three Cleveland batters hit by pitches. The second baseman has been hit seven times in the past 13 games.

STAR POWER

Francona held a meeting in Kansas City on Sunday to introduce the team’s three All-Stars – Jose Ramirez, Emmanuel Clase and Gimenez. While Ramirez is making his fourth trip, this will be the first for Gimenez and Clase.

Francona could see the emotion in Clase’s face at learning of his selection. Gimenez’s teammates erupted when his choice was revealed.

“The place went bananas,” Francona said. “In the midst of a really tough road trip, that was a nice minute.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Guardians: Naylor was back in the lineup after being scratched Sunday with lower back discomfort.

UP NEXT

The Guardians play their seventh doubleheader at home – and fourth overall since June 28 – on Tuesday. RHP Shane Bieber (3-5, 3.44 ERA) starts the first game for Cleveland against Davis Martin (1-2, 4.29 ERA). Rookie Konnor Pilkington (1-1, 4.08 ERA) goes in the nightcap against White Sox RHP Dylan Cease (7-4, 2.45 ERA).

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.