12/12/07 7:30 PM ET
Andruw hopes to bounce back in LA
Center fielder plans to return to old form with Dodgers
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"I've done it before and hit 50 home runs," he said, referring to the difference from 2004, when he hit 29 homers with 91 RBIs, to 2005, when he slugged 51 home runs with 128 RBIs and was the MVP runner-up. "It's tough. You learn so much from struggling. It hurts when it doesn't go the way it's supposed to go, especially with free agency. Everybody puts you down, that you're probably done or it's the pressure."
He's only 30, but with 10 big league seasons Jones brought with him to Wednesday's introductory press conference the confidence that comes with five All-Star appearances and 10 Gold Gloves.
He said the first week of the offseason was spent viewing video that demonstrated his balance and wide batting stance needed adjusting. He's already spent time in the batting cage to return his swing to the 2005-06 prime years, when he hit a combined 92 homers with 257 RBIs.
"I bounce back," he said. "You put it behind you. I looked at the tape side to side. Sometimes you don't see during the season and don't have time to look, but I looked for a week straight and I have a good idea of what I have to do."
Those who watched Jones closely in 2007 said his problems stemmed from a hyperextended elbow he suffered in May. With free agency looming, he tried to play through the pain until finally submitting to a cortisone injection in August. Jones downplayed the elbow. Since his first full season in the Majors in 1997, Jones has appeared in more games than any other big league player (1,730) and he has never spent time on the disabled list.
"Injuries are injuries, everybody has them," he said. "You play with it. I don't make excuses."
He said the Dodgers ran thorough tests on the elbow and found "nothing wrong."
He wound up hitting .222 and the mega-contract he was looking for wasn't there. The Braves, the only team he had played for in his career, weren't interested. The Giants and Royals made runs at him. The Dodgers were most aggressive, but insisted on a two-year deal that will allow Jones to rehabilitate his stats and take another whack at free agency while still in his prime at age 32.
"The owner and the general manager convinced me the team wanted to win," said Jones, who met with club officials three weeks ago. "They told me if I'm still the same Andruw and hit home runs, I can be here for a long time. That convinced me to sign short-term. I could have had four years, maybe five with other teams, but I had the feeling they really wanted me here and that's why I made the decision. It felt right."
The lead recruiter for the Dodgers was shortstop Rafael Furcal, Jones' close friend and former Braves teammate.
"We had so many great years together with the Braves," said Jones. "We call each other. When he struggles, he calls me. When I struggle, I call him. We have a really good relationship."
Jones said he has not spoken with Juan Pierre, who he will displace into left field, and he has not worked out what uniform number he will wear. In Atlanta, he wore No. 25, which was taken by Esteban Loaiza when he arrived in August.
Jones noted that when he first signed a professional contract, agent Scott Boras brought him into Dodger Stadium.
"He wanted me to see what a Major League stadium looked like," Jones said. "It's always fun coming to a great stadium."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.