John Cohen believes in Devin Jones. Jones believes in himself. But something is not clicking.
Tonight, Jones will see if it comes together for him when he takes the hill for Mississippi State (19-6, 4-2 SEC) at Georgia (11-14, 3-3). The junior right-hander's first two SEC outings this season haven't gone so well, as the story above will tell you. Cohen thinks Jones is really, really close to finding his game, though.
"There are times where Devin isn't as confident in his pitches as he should be," the coach said. "When that happens for him, I think he's going to be very, very productive for us."
Jones said Thursday that he's trying to block out his negative performances – like last Friday's outing against Auburn – and focus on the positives. Among the positives: He's getting the ball over the plate, walking only one batter the last two games.
"Just kind of remind(ing) myself that I can compete in this league," Jones said.
It shouldn't hurt that Georgia is the worst-hitting team in the SEC, with a .261 average – 16 points behiind 11th-place Arkansas – and also ranks last in on-base percentage (.324). An anemic offense can be a good remedy for a struggling pitcher, but Georgia's bats aside, Jones feels the same as Cohen – that a breakthrough is nigh.
"Oh yeah, definitely. It's very close," Jones said. "I feel like I'm right there, and it's just a matter of time."
• Georgia is no pushover. It took two of three from LSU, which is never easy, even if it was at home. UGA's pitching isn't great – the 4.84 team ERA is last in the league, although that's much better than last year's 8.51. Tonight's starter, Alex Wood, is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA, and LSU got to him last Friday for seven runs in 7.2 innings.
Saturday starter Michael Palazzone is the best of the bunch at 3-1, 2.15. Craig Gullickson, the Sunday starter, has a more modest line of 2-1, 5.21, but Georgia got four good innings out of him in the series finale victory over the Tigers.
Georgia looks like a team that could eventually be going places, but not as much as MSU looks it. A good start by Jones tonight could set the tone for the weekend.