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Quote:Now healed, Jones at top form
By Steve Ellis
Tallahassee Democrat

Hunter Jones was told to be patient. Jones' bout with flu-like symptoms gave the junior pitcher no choice but to come back slowly from elbow surgery.

After missing the opening series against Charleston Southern because of illness, Jones limited Virginia Military Institute to three hits in three innings. He'll open the series against Auburn (3-0) on Friday.

This will be FSU's first regular-season meeting with Auburn since 1984.  It came about when FSU coach Mike Martin decided to replace trips to the West Coast against the likes of Stanford and Arizona State with a matchup against a traditional regional powerhouse.

Jones can't wait for FSU's best challenge of the young season.

"It was difficult not being out there (at the end of last season)," Jones said. "And you want to get back there as fast as you can. Coaches always have everybody's best interest in mind. It's funny, they seem to know their players. They know what they are talking about.

"I feel really good out there now."

Associate head coach Jamey Shouppe said it was just a matter of Jones increasing his velocity before he was allowed to start again. Jones had 13 starts a year ago.

"We knew Hunter could pitch," Shouppe said. "We just didn't feel it was fair to trot him out there when he wasn't at his best. It's a scout year for him - scouts coming in to see him. And to trot out there and put a negative thought in somebody's mind because he's only throwing 80mph, that's doing him an injustice. Now he's at full strength."

This will be Jones' first start since undergoing elbow since the lefty injured his elbow against Clemson and missed nearly one-third of the 2004 season.

"It's like (Mike Martin) said, he definitely looked like the old Hunter Jones," FSU catcher Aaron Cheesman said.

Martin announced on Tuesday that in addition to Jones starting the opener on Friday, former Tallahassee Community College/Lincoln  graduate Michael Hyde will get the nod on Sunday. A day later, the veteran coach said left-hander Brian Schultz will get the nod over Barret Browning against Auburn on Saturday. Schultz missed the opening series because of pneumonia and gave up one run on five hits and in four innings of relief against VMI.

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