GOODYEAR, Ariz (AP) — Nolan Jones hopes his older brother will now finally stop bugging him.
The Indians’ top infield prospect received a big surprise when he was invited to training camp on Monday after making a quick recovery following thumb surgery in October.
Jones, a left-handed slugging third baseman who has moved quickly through Cleveland’s minor league system, doesn’t have to hear any more taunts and teasing from his brother, Peyton, a Penn State goaltender likely headed to play in the NHL.
“My brother kept telling me I’m soft,” Jones said with a grin shortly after he was called into Indians manager Terry Francona’s office and welcomed. “I’m super excited. It is a huge opportunity to learn from the best players in the game. I get to be around a lot of these guys and get to know them.”
The thumb injury sustained in the Arizona Fall League marred a season in which Jones, the Indians’ second overall draft pick in 2016, was making more progress.
The 21-year-old was promoted to Double-A Akron in just his second full season. He played in the Futures game during the All-Star break and was named to the fall league’s All-Star squad before the thumb became too painful and he opted for reconstructive ligament surgery.
Jones spent most of last season at Class A Lynchburg, where he hit .286 (72 of 252) with 12 doubles, seven homers and 41 RBIs. At Akron, he hit .253 with eight homers and 22 RBIs.
He became pain free about three weeks ago.
“There were some bumps along the way but I’m excited to be able to hit pain free,” Jones said. “It has been a long time with this pain in my hand. I’ve had some pain since the end of 2018. I found a way to deal with it, finding ways to hold my hands that hurt less.”
The Indians rewarded Jones’ hard work with his first big league invite. Francona was eager to break the news after coach and former major league infielder John McDonald summoned Jones.
“It was funny. I thought he’d been told,” Francona said of the meeting. “You have so many conversations at the end of camp that are so hard. It was pure pleasure, just to see his eyes light up. You have to take a second to enjoy it because you don’t have enough of those moments.”
Jones played in some Cactus League games last year, but he’s more looking forward to working alongside major leaguers all day.
“To be around them, soak it in and ask a million questions, is a great opportunity,” Jones said. “When Johnny Mac (McDonald) told me that Tito wanted me, I just hoped that I wasn’t in trouble. He insisted that I have fun and soak everything in.”
Barring injuries, trades or a super spring, Jones is unlikely to be in Cleveland on opening day. But the invitation indicates that it won’t be long before he’s ready.
“I’ve heard so many good things about the kid from everybody,” Francona said. “For however long he’s here we want him to kind of be a sponge, watch how guys do things. I told him I don’t know how many at-bats he’s going to get. I hope he gets some hits because it’s fun to watch them but it won’t define him.
“I did tell him now that you’re where you are, you’re starting to bump up against the major leagues as the next step.”
ROCKIES 12, INDIANS 8
Francisco Lindor and Bradley Zimmer each belted a two-run home run. Zach Plesac, nephew of former major league reliever Dan Plesac, gave up a run on two hits while striking out two in his two-inning start. Logan Allen had a rough debut, giving up four runs, two of them earned, on three hits and two walks while recording just one out.
Chi Chi Gonzalez was touched for four runs on four hits while recording five outs in the start for the Rockies. Yency Almonte worked a clean inning of relief, striking out two of the three batters he faced, to earn the win in relief. Of Colorado’s 13 hits, only two went for extra bases.
Elsewhere around the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues:
REDS 7, RANGERS 6
Nick Castellanos, a doubles-hitting machine (58 last season) who signed a free agent contract with the Reds earlier this month, had a double and fellow Cincinnati newcomer Mike Moustakas homered. Luis Castillo, the opening day starter a year ago, did not make it out of the first inning in his spring debut, allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks.
A day after getting the start in center field, infielder Nick Solak was Texas’ designated hitter and had a two-run homer. The team announced that starting pitcher Brock Burke will likely miss the entire 2020 season with a shoulder injury that will require arthroscopic surgery.
ASTROS 11, TIGERS 1
After an impressive September call-up, Bryan Abreu was impressive in his spring debut, striking our four of the Tigers he faced, including perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera. All four went down swinging. Jake Adams hit a solo homer, scored twice and drove in four runs.
Matthew Boyd struck out three Astros over two innings, allowing two hits and a walk. Overall the Tigers staff surrendered 14 hits. Detroit managed just four hits, only one for extra bases — a double by Troy Stokes, Jr.
TWINS 3, RED SOX (SS) 2
Kenta Maeda made his first appearance in a Twins uniform, pitching two innings and allowing a leadoff home run to Andrew Benintendi. Maeda was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 10. Nelson Cruz made his spring training debut, hitting a two-run homer.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. had two singles for Boston. Nathan Eovaldi allowed two hits and struck out four in two innings.
RED SOX (SS) 2, RAYS 2
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, the Japanese league outfielder signed by the Rays to add some power to the lineup, homered in his second game. He has yet to make an out, walking twice with a single and home run.
Nick Lovullo, son of Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, played second base for the Red Sox. Tanner Houck, Boston’s first-round draft pick in 2017, walked two and gave up a hit in a two-inning start.
MARLINS 6, CARDINALS 3
Sandy Alcantara, expected to be the Marlins’ opening-day starter, threw 19 of 38 pitches for strikes in two innings. He allowed one earned run, two hits and three walks.
Cardinals starter John Gant worked two hitless innings, as did Ryan Helsley. Junior Fernández and Zack Thompson, the Cardinals’ No. 1 draft pick last year, each worked an inning as St. Louis held the Marlins hitless through six innings.
PHILLIES 8, ORIOLES 7
Mikie Mahtook hit a three-run homer for the Phillies and Logan Forsythe homered and single. Expected to battle for a spot in the rotation, Vince Velasquez worked two innings and allowed a hit, walking one and striking out one.
Alex Cobb worked an inning in the start for the Orioles, allowing a hit. After getting picked off waivers repeatedly during the offseason, Pat Valaika homered.
BLUE JAYS 4, BRAVES 3
Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, and Randal Grichuk each doubled for the Blue Jays. Starter Shun Yamaguchi got just two outs against projected Braves bench players. He allowed three hits and hit a batter while struggling with his command.
Braves starter Max Fried, who won 17 games last year, retired one batter and gave up three earned runs in his spring training debut. Ian Anderson, the team’s top pitching prospect, gave up an earned run, two hits and two walks over two-thirds of an inning. Dansby Swanson had two hits.
METS 2, NATIONALS 1
Wilson Ramos singled and homered for the Mets while catcher David Peterson, the team’s first round draft pick in 2017, allowed one hit and struck out two over two innings.
Wil Crowe, the Nationals’ second-round draft pick in 2017, gave up two hits and struck out one in two innings.
ROYALS 8, PADRES 5
Jorge Soler homered for the second time this spring and Khalil Lee added a solo shot for the Royals. Bubba Starling had two hits and stole a base. Greg Holland, who re-signed in late January, worked a clean inning.
Manny Machado homered and Fernando Tatis Jr. doubled for San Diego. Cal Quantrill struck out four in his two-inning start. Drew Pomeranz gave up two hits and an earned run in an inning of work.
DODGERS 2, WHITE SOX 2, 9 INNINGS
Mookie Betts had two hits and Cody Bellinger doubled for the Dodgers. Cody Thomas hit one home run and saved another with a leaping catch to rob Blake Rutherford. Ross Stripling, who is working a changeup into his arsenal of pitches, struck out two in his one-inning start.
Yermin Mercedes, Chicago’s Triple-A catcher, belted a tape-measure home run to left and Matt Skole hit an RBI double in the ninth to tie the game. Non-roster invitees Alex McRae and Adalberto Mejia each worked two scoreless innings.
BREWERS (SS) 2, ANGELS 1
The favorite to draw the opening day start, Brandon Woodruff walked a batter in his one-inning start. Angel Perdomo struck out two in his one-inning of relief. Chad Spanberger, a sixth-round pick by the Rockies in 2017, homered.
Dillon Peters struck out three in his two-inning start for the Angels. Jared Walsh doubled.
BREWERS (SS) 12, ATHLETICS 1
Orlando Arcia hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs for the Brewers. Keon Broxton doubled and Lucas Erceg homered and singled.
Sean Manaea struck out two over 1 2/3 innings, but was tagged for six earned runs on six hits, two of them home runs and three more doubles. Luis Barrera tripled.
GIANTS 11, DIAMONDBACKS 9
Evan Longoria hit a two-run double and Jaylin Davis doubled and tripled for the Giants. Drew Smyly recorded strikeouts on two of his five outs in the start. Shaun Anderson was roughed up in his inning of relief, allowing three runs on four hits with a strikeout.
Starling Marte made his Diamondbacks debut and singled in two at-bats. Zac Gallen, who came to Arizona in a trade with Miami last year and is battling for a slot in the rotation, worked two clean innings with a strikeout. Andrew Chafin retired the side in order in his inning of relief.
CUBS 13, MARINERS 9
Josh Phegley became the third Cubs catcher to homer when he belted a three-run shot in his first at-bat. Willson Contreras homered in the opener and Victor Caratini followed with a home run in Sunday’s game. Albert Almora Jr. went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs. Adbert Alzolay struck out the side in his one-inning start, but also walked one and allowed two earned runs on three hits.
Marco Gonzales, the Mariners’ ace, was tagged for five runs on three hits and two walks and did not make it out of the first inning. Dylan Moore hit a two-run homer.