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July 22, 2008 at 3:01 PM

Q&A with Hunter Jones

Hunter Jones is on the doorstep of the big leagues. A 24-year-old lefthander who was signed by the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2005, Jones began this season in Portland, but was promoted to Pawtucket after posting a 1.19 ERA in 13 appearances out of the Sea Dogs’ bullpen. The native of Palm Beach Gardens , Florida has been no less impressive with the PawSox, going 5-2, with a 2.97 ERA in 21 games. On the season, Jones has 60 strikeouts to go with only 11 free passes in 56 innings. David Laurila talked to Jones before a recent game at McCoy Stadium.

David Laurila: David Ortiz was just in Pawtucket on a rehab assignment. What was it like having Big Papi as a teammate?
Hunter Jones: Ortiz is definitely a fun and interesting character. I met him in spring training this year, and when he came to Pawtucket just recently he was a great clubhouse presence. He likes to play his music and laugh with everyone; he’s a cool person. I even asked him if he minded having his picture taken with me, and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, of course, man.” He’s just a real stand-up guy and a good teammate.

DL: What impact did he have on the team?
HJ: Well, there’s obviously never a lineup that you can’t put Ortiz in! He hit some bombs, and you can’t really say enough about what he does and how he goes about his business. He didn’t show anyone up or make anyone feel like they’re beneath him; he acted just like he was another guy on the team. And he can definitely hit.

DL: Can you swing the bat?
HJ: Can I hit? I can’t hit worth a lick. I used to hit in high school, but now I’ve been out of the hitting game for so long that I think I’d be scared to even get into the box. For one thing, my vision has gotten worse because of the eye injury. Back in 2006, when I used to wear contacts, I’d pack dirt on my hand to try to get it dry so the sweat didn’t get all over, and some dirt got in my eye -- some microscopic rocks or whatnot -- and it scratched my eye in three places. Besides, I haven’t picked up a bat in six years.

DL: Can any of the pitchers here in Pawtucket hit?
HJ: I don’t know, but Lincoln Holdzkom talks a big game. Everybody talks a big game, but then they get up there and nobody can hit it out of the park. Nobody gets hits, they just hit little roll-over grounders to the second baseman or shortstop. Pitchers’ BP usually looks pretty silly, because everybody is pretty bad.

DL: How would you describe the PawSox bullpen -- not on the field, but in the clubhouse?
HJ: Our bullpen is a little bit different. Before most games, guys are playing cards or something, but our bullpen is like a bunch of little kids because we play Risk, which is meant more for six year olds. But we all love it. Chris Smith is the one who brought it in, but we all play, and it’s kind of funny watching a bunch of grown men fighting each other over a board game, you know. The bullpen is kind of like a family, so sometimes we get into it, but everyone has a good time with it.

DL: Who usually wins?
HJ: John Switzer wins a lot of the games. Most everyone is pretty good, but there are a couple of poor players, too. The reason Switzer wins is that he gets everybody to attack each other; somehow he’s really good at convincing people about things. He’ll say, “Hey, you know what? You don’t need to attack me, you should go that way; it makes more sense.” Everybody believes him, so they do it and he ends up winning. He’s the salty vet, and he knows what he’s doing. Of course, most people haven’t played Risk since they were six -- except us.

DL: What are your impressions of Triple-A so far?
HJ: It’s kind of the same old, but some of the guys up here are a little easier on you. They get tough on you right away, especially when you’re a bullpen guy, but they know how to let up on you, too. A lot of the guys here have been around for awhile and they’re pretty good teammates. They’ll mess with you; they’ll put bubbles on your hat when you’re running out to the field and whatnot, but when it’s game time they know it’s time to take it serious.

DL: How about on the mound -- is it different facing Triple-A hitters?
HJ: My personal opinion of professional baseball is that at every level you have guys who stand out. You also have guys who are average and below average, and you have guys who get better and guys who get worse. Pretty much all of the hitters are the same at every level; up here they maybe have a little more pop, a little more zone recognition. But it’s the same guys, they’re just moving up the system like you are. I think the biggest difference is actually the strike zone, which gets tighter and more consistent. That said, if you have stuff that plays well in the zone, I don't believe you have a whole lot to worry about.

DL: When you’re pitching well, are you getting many swings on pitches outside of the zone?
HJ: Not really. I’m in the zone a pretty good part of the time; that’s where my success is. I try to have all of my stuff in the zone, and if not, just outside of the zone. I’m not really a guy who gets a lot of chases, I just go after hitters.

DL: What is going to get Hunter Jones to the big leagues?
HJ: I guess more time in the minors? I don’t really know, because I’ve never been in the big leagues, but I feel like I’m doing the right things. According to a lot of guys, I haven’t been in the minors all that long, although it does feel like forever. So I don’t know. I just try to be a good teammate. I feel like I have a lot of friends here. I try not to talk down to anyone, and I try to lift guys when they're down because I want to see all of us in the majors. That’s the truth. I don’t feel that I have to be cutthroat to get to the bigs. I feel like my stuff has a good chance to play there, and when my time comes, hopefully it will.

DL: If you found a magic lamp and a baseball genie granted you three wishes, what would they be?
HJ: Oh my God. What’s funny is that we had a much more graphic description of that question in the clubhouse one day. I guess, to make it kind of PG, I’ll say -- man, that’s a lot of wishes. I could do a lot with just one. I mean, if I had a 100 mph fastball I could do a lot of damage! I’d wish for a happy, healthy career in the big leagues with a lot of success for the people around me. And I suppose I’d like to look back, when all is said and done, at the end of my career, and be able to say, “Do you know what? I had a good time. I met some great people. That’s all I could have ever wished from in life, and I did it.”