Notes: Jones to test the market
Veteran in position to gauge interest in his services
DETROIT -- Todd Jones makes his living at the mercy of his team. No leads in the ninth inning, no save opportunities, no job for Jones to do. After converting 75 of 87 opportunities over the last two years, he's in a position where he controls his job.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland's comments Sunday that he would "emphatically" welcome Jones back next year were no headline to Jones, who had heard that from Leyland earlier this season. That said, while Leyland would like Jones back, and Jones would like to be back, he's going to exercise his right to test the open market and see what's out there for someone in his position.
It's not necessarily a matter of money. It's a matter of control.
"I've earned that right," Jones said. "I'm not ashamed of it. You see what's out there and you make your decision based on the information given at the time."
The information at this point suggests Jones will be one of several veteran closers on the market when the season is over. Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, Cleveland's Joe Borowski, Milwaukee's Francisco Cordero and Atlanta's Octavio Dotel all are pending free agents.
Jones could be the least glamorous name on that list from a stuff standpoint. That said, nobody on the list has more saves over the last three seasons. His 115 saves since 2005 rank third in the Majors behind Trevor Hoffman and Francisco Rodriguez.
What that earns him on the open market remains to be seen. In any case, he'll arguably hit the market in a better situation than two years ago, when he turned a 40-save comeback season for the Marlins in 2005 into a two-year, $11 million deal with Detroit.
However, Jones cautioned, it's not simply looking for the best contract. He's not even thinking about a multiyear deal, because he doesn't know if he wants to pitch beyond 2008, and he's in a good situation financially after 15 years in the Majors.
Family matters will play a part, as will the team. So will the opportunity to continue closing, though he said it's not a deal-breaker. Asked how much his ties to the Tigers matter, he said, "more than money."
"It's been a great time," Jones said. "Will it continue? I don't know."
He doesn't know much about it yet, because he hasn't even discussed his situation with the Tigers front office. He's going to wait until free agency before tackling his future. It's his choice.
"I'm not bound by anything," Jones said. "And that's a great place to be."
Speaking of relievers: If Jones isn't back, that could put Detroit's setup men in a different situation. After Sunday's performance, Joel Zumaya can go into the offseason feeling a lot better about his arm than he did a few weeks ago.
He knew coming off the disabled list that regaining his pre-surgery velocity would be a slow process, and that it might not be back until next year. Yet when one fastball registered at 103 mph on the Comerica Park radar gun, he knew it was back.
It wasn't actually a 103-mph fastball, but it was hard enough. The same pitch registered at 101 mph on the FSN Detroit broadcast and 99 mph on MLB.com's Gameday tracker. And, yes, Zumaya looked at the scoreboard to check the reading.
"It shocked me a little bit yesterday," Zumaya said. "I hit 100 once, I believe in Oakland, and then to see that, I turned around and I happened to look at the [radar] gun. I saw 103 and thought that had to be wrong. Then everybody else told me it was 101 [on the telecast]. It just felt good seeing that up there again.
"It felt fine. I know I could've easily thrown another one, but I know I can get guys out with 97-99 [mph]. And if I really want to, I can rear back and I still have that in there."
Just as important, he was hitting 97-98 mph free and easy in his delivery, aside from that pitch. That's the luxury he enjoyed last year and early in this one before the surgery. Now that he had to pitch for a while without that, he feels he's a better overall pitcher.
"I've learned how to pitch a little bit," he said. "And it's helped me a lot, because I know I can get my breaking ball over for strikes. And if I really want to throw a changeup, I can throw a changeup, too. I've learned a lot just having to pitch at that velocity.
"I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, just get back healthy and hopefully stay where I'm at now coming into next year and do what I have to do."
Last road trip for Rock: Former Tigers player Rondell White has had a handful of visits to Detroit over the last two years since joining the Twins last year. He's calling this one The Homecoming, because it's most likely his last go-around.
Though he hasn't officially called this his last season, he said Monday there's a "99 percent chance" he'll retire. He's a free agent at season's end with a history of injuries, including his shoulder, hamstring and knee, and with a baby daughter named Zaiya born last week, the idea of going home to his family sounds good to him.
"It's been a tough year," White said. "My body's drained. Mentally, I'm drained, too. My baby's been like a breath of fresh air."
He'll leave behind friends around the Majors, including several on the Tigers. Asked how he wants to be remembered in baseball, he said, "Play the game hard. Treat people the way you want to be treated."
Coming up: Yorman Bazardo (1-1, 3.24 ERA) gets one more start against the Twins when he takes the mound Tuesday night at Comerica Park. Matt Garza (4-6, 3.72) will try to build on his 6-2 career road record when he starts for Minnesota. Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.