SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Texas Rangers have provided redemption for outfielders such as Sammy Sosa and Milton Bradley. Now Andruw Jones hopes to join that list.
The 10-time Gold Glove winner is anxious to make everyone forget 2008, when he showed up out shape for the first year of a two-year, $36.2 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hit just .158 and was eventually sidelined for the season by knee problems.
The Dodgers released him in January even though they still owed him $21 million, and the Rangers signed him to an incentive-laden minor-league contract. Now Texas has the same hope Los Angeles did a year ago: that Jones can regain the form that made him a five-time All-Star with the Atlanta Braves, and a player with 371 career home runs in 12-plus seasons.
“After a year like I had last year, it was a really bad year,” Jones said Tuesday. “Things didn’t go the (right) way with the injury and not being in good (shape). It was a tough situation, and I think I learned a lot from that and that’s why I’m where I’m at right now.”
The 31-year-old Jones signed a $500,000 contract with Texas and can make up to $1 million in incentives. He also can become a free agent if he hasn’t made the Rangers’ major league roster by March 20.
“You’ve got a reputation,” Jones said. “The reputation that you’ve got is never going to go away. I play the game every day. That’s what I do for a living. You just try to keep yourself on a good reputation. I just have to go out there again and show these guys that I’m still the player I’ve always been.”
Jones hit his first home run in the second round of batting practice.
“He looks good,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I don’t see the fat and flab. He said he’s ready to go and he looks like he’s ready to go.”
It’s unclear where Jones will fit in the outfield, though. Josh Hamilton is the center fielder, and there’s talk of him playing right field as well. David Murphy figures to be the leading option in left, with Nelson Cruz in right. Marlon Byrd is likely to be the fourth outfielder, but Frank Catalanotto and Brandon Boggs are strong contenders in camp.
“I think we need to let him play first to see what he’s got,” Washington said. “We need to let him get up here and get settled in and I think his game will answer that question.”
Right-hander Kevin Millwood, who came up with Atlanta, said Jones is the best defensive center fielder he’s ever seen.
“People have bad years,” Millwood said. “I think taking a chance on a guy like that is a really smart move.”
Notes: Jones and Michael Young were among the six position players to report Tuesday, leaving the Rangers just two players shy of a full camp. “I think that says they’re excited and ready to go,” Washington said. “They all look in great shape and have great attitudes and that’s one thing we never had to worry about last year was attitude. We’ve got a lot of leaders out there.”
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