Jones is valuable pitch man for Tigers' staff

Jones is valuable pitch man for Tigers' staff

KANSAS CITY -- Jeff Jones made his name as a pitching coach in Triple-A, working with guys the Tigers sent down for him to fix, trying to find something that would work. On days like Tuesday, that background is still apparent today.

As Max Scherzer was struggling through his first inning against the Royals, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was talking with his pitching coach to try to figure out what was up with his unbeaten pitcher. Jones spotted something.

"He said he was carrying his glove too low and that's got him out of whack a little bit," Leyland said.

It was something Leyland hadn't figured to spot, and he has spent about a half a century in baseball as a catcher, coach and manager. For Jones, it was something he had worked with Scherzer on adjusting last year when he was going through his early-season struggles.

It wasn't the biggest adjustment for Scherzer, who said he had get more aggressive with his mindset and attack hitters. But it was a key component nonetheless.

Make no mistake, a pitching coach is only as good as the talent around him, but his job depends on getting the most out of talent. Part of that is psychology. Part of it, too, is pattern recognition, spotting what's different.

Jones has a knack for that. It's in his history.

"I don't say much about him very often, because I don't like to brag about him, but I have a terrific pitching coach," Leyland said. "He's very good at spotting stuff."

Leyland has historically been a big proponent of managers and coaches learning in the Minor Leagues, having spent more than a decade managing on the farm before he got his shot. He's careful to point out that it isn't a necessity, but in some cases, it can be an advantage.

Jones spent a dozen years as the pitching coach at Triple-A Toledo. He'd get the prospects on their way up, and he'd get the reclamation projects on their trip down.

"There are guys in Triple-A, who are knocking on the door and have to get over that last hurdle," Leyland said, "and some guys that have been there and all of a sudden went backwards and didn't make the adjustment, and you're trying to help them make the adjustment."

The staff Jones has in Detroit has pretty much been on an upward trajectory the last few years. Still, he has had to help Scherzer through rough spells the last couple years, and Jones has been the point man for helping Rick Porcello through his growing pains. Now, both are at the point where they can make in-game adjustments.

It makes the results of adjustments quicker, and it makes Jones' job easier.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.