09/24/08 12:54 PM ET
Jones to retire at season's end
Closer leaves Detroit as Tigers' all-time saves leader
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
The announcement ends a 16-year career that saw Jones win the closing job in Detroit in the mid-90s, start on a journeyman tour of teams in 2001, then eventually come back to close again on the 2006 Tigers team that reached the World Series.
"So this is it," Jones wrote in his latest column. "If you're a Tigers fan, I'll never stress you out again. If you're not a Tigers fan, you'll never have me as your ace in the hole, convinced I'll blow a lead against your team."
His self-deprecating, slightly sarcastic style has been a trademark of his columns and was ever present in his interviews. However, the stats will show Jones to have been among the more enduring relievers of the past generation.
Drafted by the Astros in 1989 out of Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Jones arrived in Detroit before the 1997 season in a nine-player deal with the Astros that included Jose Lima, Brian Hunter, C.J. Nitkowski and Brad Ausmus. As it turned out, he outlasted most of his teammates in Detroit, saving 142 games from 1997-2001. He threw the final Major League pitch at historic Tiger Stadium in 1999.
Eventually, Matt Anderson's emergence in the Tigers bullpen led the club to trade Jones to the division-rival Twins at the 2001 Trade Deadline. From there, he bounced from Minnesota to Colorado, then to Boston, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. He spent 2003-2004 with five different Major League clubs, including the Devil Rays, who released him out of Spring Training in '04.
With his future in question, he won a job in the Marlins bullpen to open the 2005 season and became a closer again when Guillermo Mota landed on the disabled list early that year. What was expected to be a fill-in role for him became permanent with his performance. He piled up 40 saves that year on a Marlins team that won 83 games.
The timing couldn't have been better for Jones, who hit the free-agent market that winter. After weighing interest from other teams, he ended up signing a two-year deal to return to the Tigers, who had tried to shore up the job in the previous couple years by signing past free agents Troy Percival and Ugueth Urbina.
Jones' return turned out to be a good fit. He saved 37 games in 2006 despite missing most of the first two months of the season, then topped that with 38 saves in '07.
His appearances were rarely quiet. Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell gave him the nickname "Roller Coaster" in his previous Tigers tenure his ability to put men on base in relief appearances before finishing off the save, and the nickname resufaced upon his return. In the end, however, he was one of the most statistically effective closers in that two-year span, converting 75 saves out of 87 opportunities.
Jones re-signed with the Tigers last fall on a one-year deal and saved 18 games in 21 chances, but battled shoulder problems for much of the year. He was placed on the DL in late July with shoulder tendinitis, returned for one August appearance, then went back on the DL when it was apparent he couldn't effectively pitch through it. An MRI exam revealed a frayed rotator cuff.
The 40-year-old Jones joined the 300-save club last year, and currently ranks 14th on the all-time Major League list with 319. His 235 career saves as a Tiger easily outdistance all others for the franchise standard; Mike Henneman is second with 154. Jones' 982 career appearances rank 15th all-time among big league pitchers.
The Tigers have scheduled an 11 a.m. ET press conference with Jones at Comerica Park, where he's expected to discuss his retirement.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.