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How Todd Jones Got His Groove Back

While chatting with The Daily Fungo trio (accompanied by Big Al) last night, the discussion eventually turned to Todd Jones and whether or not we still cringe when he comes in to close out a game. But the numbers are telling us that maybe we should relax.

If three straight saves in Minnesota (which were rather efficient and painless) wasn't enough to settle your anxiety, consider that Jones has thrown nine straight scoreless appearances. Basically, he's been almost lights-out since his three-run meltdown against Texas on June 26.

So what turned Jones around? Buster Olney had a conversation with him, which he shared on his blog (ESPN Insider) today. For those of you that didn't shell out for the ESPN.com premium content, here's an excerpt:

Todd Jones was hit with his fourth loss of the season on June 26, and afterward, a Tigers scout suggested to the closer that he was becoming predictable. He would throw cut fastballs to left-handers and sinkers to right-handers, and both pitches were at about the same speed.

So Jones made an adjustment, deciding to mix in more curveballs and changeups, pitches thrown at markedly less velocity, a difference that could serve to throw off the timing of hitters. "Instead of worrying only about inside and outside," Jones said late Thursday, as the team journeyed to the airport in Minnesota, "they had to worry about front and back. It gave them something else to think about."

During that streak, Jones has still had a few outings where he gave up a couple of hits, but a 1-2-3 ninth inning has never really been a given with him, has it? But it's pretty clear right now that any reliever the Tigers might acquire in a trade is coming to Detroit to be a set-up man. This team already has a closer.