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ANGELS NOTEBOOK: SOMETHING HAPPENING FOR MR. JONES.

Byline: Gabe Lacques Staff Writer

CLEVELAND - Greg Jones can't quite believe he's joined what's been one of baseball's best bullpens. And to some degree, the Angels can't believe it, either.

``He's gone from, at one point, a pure thrower to a guy toning everything down and becoming a pitcher,'' Angels pitching coach Bud Black said.

Jones entered this, his seventh season in the Angels system, far off the Angels' radar. They already were deep in the bullpen at the big-league level and Jones was buried among their minor-league prospects. He appeared in one exhibition game this spring and, among right-handers, was less regarded than harder-throwing Bart Miadich and Derrick Turnbow.

But Jones went from a space filler at Triple-A Salt Lake to a stalwart, striking out 56 batters in 47 innings and walking just nine, numbers that draw attention even if the prospect is a 26-year-old former 42nd-round pick, as Jones was in 1996.

Since joining the Angels on July 30 after Kevin Appier's release, he's kept it up. In eight innings, he's given up no runs, just two hits and struck out eight, featuring a sharp curveball and a fastball that tops out at 94 mph.

If the Angels' track record is any indication, they won't offer salary arbitration to relievers Ben Weber and Gary Glover this offseason, so Jones could have two permanent slots to pursue in '04. For now, he's the quietest member of the Angels clubhouse, soaking up tidbits from closer Troy Percival on down to Francisco Rodriguez, who at 21 is five years Jones' junior.

``These guys have established the bullpen where it is,'' he said. ``It's a great learning tool, not just being in the best bullpen, but with the world champions and a couple of All-Stars. It's a great opportunity.''

Jones figures to stick for the rest of the season, an opportunity that will keep him from his offseason job, teaching special education at a St. Petersburg, Fla., high school. Jones attended Seminole High, the same school that produced 2001 first-round pick Casey Kotchman, but teaches at an inner-city school that provided him a sobering reality check.

``These kids are dealt a hand I can't comprehend - some were crack babies, some have never known their parents,'' Jones said. ``It was eye-opening for me. I hadn't seen that.''

--Massage for Erstad: Center fielder Darin Erstad on Sunday underwent the first of what will be several massage sessions to try to work scar tissue out of his injured right hamstring. Erstad will see another massage specialist in Orange County and undergo the technique three or four times before considering surgery.

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ANGELS vs. CHICAGO

- Gabe Lacques
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 11, 2003
Words:444
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