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Jared Jones dominates in Pirates debut

Back during spring training, if someone had predicted that a rookie pitcher would go on to record 10 strikeouts in his Major League debut with the Pirates in 2024, you likely would have thought of Paul Skenes, right?

How could it not be Skenes, the hulking phenom who was the first pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, the guy whose fastball frequently tops out at over 100 mph?

As it turns out, the Pirates have a second pitching phenom: Jared Jones, their third-ranked prospect coming into spring training. Speaking of spring training, it was there that Jones allowed no earned runs while pitching a combined 16.1 innings. Jones displayed great command and often flirted with triple digits on the radar gun. Jones was so impressive that he surprisingly made the Pirates’ opening-day roster and was named one of their starting pitchers.

Jones made his MLB debut against the Marlins at LoanDepot Park on Saturday afternoon. He pitched five-and-two-thirds innings, allowing three hits and three earned runs while walking two and striking out 10, as the Pirates won, 9-3, to improve to 3-0 on the season.

It was the first time a Pirates pitcher recorded double-digit strikeouts in his MLB debut since Time Wakefield in 1992. In addition to his 10 strikeouts, Jones induced 22 swings and misses–or whiffs–the most by a rookie pitcher in a debut since they started keeping track of such things in 2008.

Jones’s stuff was simply electric, and it was easy to see why he made the opening-day roster as a 22-year-old.

The Pirates drafted Jones in the second round (44th, overall) of the 2020 MLB Draft and offered the youngster over-slot money to encourage him to sign with them rather than play college baseball at Texas.

While Skenes came into the spring as baseball’s third-rated prospect (and top pitching prospect), Jones was ranked 59th. Therefore, it’s easy to see why there wasn’t much buzz surrounding him.

But Jones created his own buzz with an awesome spring training. And, now, after what he did against the Marlins in his professional debut? Put it this way: Skenes, who pitched three perfect innings in his first start with triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday, is going to have a tough time outshining Jones when he ultimately makes his Big League debut with the Pirates.

The Pirates were criticized for not adding an accomplished pitcher to the rotation who could complement Mitch Keller and, ultimately, Skenes; I’m talking about someone with much more juice than both Marco Gonzales and Martin Perez, two veterans who were acquired in the offseason.

It’s hard to give the Pirates credit for anything these days, but maybe they were betting on Jones ultimately joining Skenes as one of their rookie starting pitchers at some point during the 2024 campaign.

But they probably didn’t anticipate it happening in reverse order.

Jones flipped the script.

Trevor Bauer would have been a note-worthy signing, but he would have come with a ton of baggage. Would I have cheered for him? Sure, but it would have been tough.

There is nothing hard about cheering for someone like Jones.

At the end of the day, the Pirates need to draft talented players and develop them into Major Leaguers if they’re ever going to compete for championships.

Maybe you want to give the Pirates credit for Jared Jones. Maybe you don’t. Either way, it’s good that he’s now a part of their immediate future.


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