Jones optimistic after back procedure

CHICAGO – Five days removed from minor back surgery, Nate Jones was back in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse Friday, and he said that if all goes well, he could resume baseball activity in four weeks.

He also vowed to be back on the mound before the season ends.

“Our first target is becoming a normal person, twisting and bending, stuff like that,” Jones said. “We are shooting for the earliest, which is four weeks, since they didn’t have to take any bone or anything like that out. I was very thankful of that. We are going to shoot for four weeks.”

Jones was first diagnosed with a gluteus-muscle strain in spring training, a diagnosis that was revised to a hip issue. Ultimately, the back problem was found.

Jones’ surgery helped to relieve pressure on a nerve that was causing his back discomfort.

The 28-year-old reliever figures that if the four-week recovery goes as planned, he would essentially have to start spring training all over again. He had a delayed start to his spring, struggled while battling for the vacant closer role and couldn’t record an out in two major league appearances before he went on the disabled list.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura will take Jones’ word for it that the right-hander is already feeling better.

“I know he says he feels good, but he looks like someone that had surgery on his back walking around,” Ventura said. “I sympathize with him.”

Jones was expected to be a key contributor in a revamped bullpen and when he was injured so early in the year, it sent the entire group adrift. Over the first 18 games, the bullpen had a combined 6.12 ERA.

The group has made a remarkable improvement, though. Over the past 12 games, the relievers have a 1.69 ERA, and they also delivered a 23 1/3-inning scoreless streak that ended Thursday.

Jones was asked if it has been harder watching the bullpen struggle knowing he couldn’t contribute, or watching the unit have success knowing he can’t join the fun.

“It’s hard watching all the time,” he said. "I was rooting for the guys. I love seeing the bullpen come in and do what they have been doing over the past several games. I was a part of those early struggles so I felt like it was my fault. It was hard for me to watch, too. They are all doing well and I wish them all the best of luck.”