Kiki Jones expected to be pitching in the major leagues this season. At least that's what he thought when the Los Angeles Dodgers made him their No. 1 pick in 1989. And that's what he thought after he won his first 11 decisions as a professional pitcher.
But the ex-Tampa Hillsborough High star was excited just to be pitching in a Class A game in Clearwater on Thursday night. More precise, Jones was excited to be able throw a 90-mph fastball and not feel the bite of the tendinitis in his right shoulder that has limited him to three starts in the last 13 months.
Jones, pitching for the first time since April 20, threw 80 pitches over five innings, giving up two runs and five hits, while striking out seven in Vero Beach's 6-5 win over the Phillies. The 5-foot-11 right-hander did not figure in the decision, but he did leave the game with the Dodgers ahead 3-2.
"It feels great to just be on the mound again," said Jones, who made his first appearance in the bay area since graduating from Hillsborough High in 1989. "I feel great, my shoulder doesn't hurt. I can't tell you how excited I am. I was so scared that the arm would start hurting."
Jones said if he can stay healthy, he expects to move up to Double-A before season's end.
"But, it really doesn't matter to me," Jones said. "I expect to be pitching in the majors someday soon, but right now I just want to throw without pain. That's my main objective."
St. Lucie 4, St. Petersburg 0: Gregg Langbehn and Andy Reich scattered eight hits as St. Lucie shut out St. Petersburg 4-0 in Port St. Lucie.
Dunedin 2, Miami 1: Tim Hodge scored the winning run from third base on an errant pickoff attempt in the eighth inning as the Blue Jays edged the Miami Miracle 2-1 at Dunedin stadium.
_ Times correspondent Bob Miller and a special report contributed to this roundup.