Nolan Jones becomes third Guardians rookie this season to enter the history books
The Guardians have "Let the Kids Play" more than any team in baseball this season. And it has been the kids who have played crucial roles in keeping the youthful Guardians afloat in the postseason race.
The newest member of the club: Nolan Jones, who made his debut Friday night and has made an immediate — and much needed — impact on the Guardians lineup.
He hit an RBI double in his first career at-bat. His second career game featured a 457-foot home run that ended up in a fountain at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. But Monday night, his home debut in front of the Cleveland fans at Progressive Field, was his best day yet.
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Jones finished the game 2-for-3 with a double and 4 RBIs to lead the Guardians to an 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox. It brought the Guardians back to an even .500 record at 42-42. And for the third time this season, a Guardians rookie outfielder has made his major league debut and instantly provided a lift.
First it was Steven Kwan on Opening Day, who went on to make baseball history with his lack of swings-and-misses and the rate at which he got on base. Then it was Oscar Gonzalez, who collected hits to begin a career at a rate that no Cleveland hitter had since 1991. And now it's Jones.
Jones, Kwan and Gonzalez are now the first three Cleveland rookies to begin their careers with hit streaks of at least four games in franchise history. Jones' eight RBIs through his first four career games is tied for the franchise record, along with Roy Weatherly in 1936 — meaning a Cleveland rookie hasn't driven in runs in the first four days of a major league career like Jones has since before World War II.
Jones and Kwan are also the first teammates to reach base multiple times in each of their first four career games since Ken Griffey Sr. and Dan Driessen accomplished that feat with the 1973 Cincinnati Reds.
"Nolan has been like a lot of the rookies who have come up for us. He’s been professional, prepared to play at this level, committed to the approach that we bring and really just doing a good job," said Cal Quantrill, Monday night's starting pitcher. "Just from what I’ve seen in these last three or four games, a really professional at-bat.
"His ability to take pitches at this level is something that not a lot of guys who come up to the big leagues are capable of doing and then put a good swing on the one pitch that you might get to hit. I think that really is the difference between big-league hitters and minor-league hitters, the chase goes away and the ability to slug on one kind of mistake that you’ll see. I’ve been really impressed."
Nolan Jones had rocky road to majors
Jones was formerly Cleveland's No. 1-ranked prospect but since slid to No. 7 prior to his promotion to the majors.
Part of that has been due to the development of Daniel Espino, George Valera and others. But it's also due to a tumultuous few years in the minors for Jones, who battled thumb surgery, an ankle surgery, a lost 2020 minor league season due to COVID-19 and then back issues that derailed the beginning of his 2022 season.
And his 2021 season left much to be desired while the strikeouts piled up and his potential path to Cleveland became murkier. Jones' rise to the majors was anything but a steady climb.
“One, he just got healthy," manager Terry Francona said. "I mean, he was rated our No. 1 prospect for a couple years. 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 [his swing] was a little longer. Now, it’s shorter and he’s to the ball. It gets a little exciting."
Jones watched his teammate Triston McKenzie make his major league debut while standing on the top deck of the parking garage that sits beyond the left field wall at Progressive Field. On Monday night, he was able to hear his own name called from a slightly better seat in the dugout.
"It was really cool. I've been looking forward to this for a long time," Jones said of his debut. "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."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.
White Sox at Guardians
Time: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday
TV: Bally Sports Great Lakes
Pitchers: Lucas Giolito (5-5, 5.05) vs. Aaron Civale (2-5, 6.28)
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Nolan Jones makes more rookie history for Guardians, joining Kwan, Gonzalez