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02/28/09 8:14 PM EST
Andruw's bat needs spring awakening
Non-roster invitee struggling in first four Cactus League games
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
TUCSON, Ariz. -- In his second plate appearance on Saturday afternoon, Andruw Jones drew a four-pitch walk from Diamondbacks pitcher Scott Schoeneweis. It marked the only second time in four Cactus League games that Jones has reached base. It was also just the second time in 10 Cactus League plate appearances that Jones hasn't struck out. He was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts on Saturday in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over the Diamondbacks and is 1-for-9 with a walk and eight strikeouts in four games.
His only hit was an infield single on Friday. The rest of the time has not been good.
"It's just trying to do too much and impress right away," Jones said, searching for an explanation. "I've got to get in a relaxed mood and make it happen instead of trying to make it happen. If I do that, everything will fall into a groove. I'm think too much. I'm working hard in the cage with [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo], but when the game starts, I'm trying to make things happen instead of trying to see the ball and hit it."
The Rangers signed Jones to a Minor League contract a week before Spring Training began. The Dodgers released him in July after he hit .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs last year, but the Rangers thought they saw enough bat speed in a January workout to take a chance on him.
Jaramillo has tried to get Jones to embrace his system of hitting. The biggest thing is getting him to stay back and use his hand quickness rather than getting out too fast and lunging after pitches.
"We work in the cages to break the bad habits, then I think about it in the game rather than trusting myself," Jones said. "Rudy said it would take time to get used to his system. He told me I might struggle for 20 at-bats or so, but it would take time to get the system down. I'm making it too hard. I'm taking pitches I should swing at and swinging through pitches that should be hits."
He still has to earn a spot on the team, and the Rangers outfield is crowded already with David Murphy, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Marlon Byrd and Frank Catalanotto. The Rangers have to put Jones on the roster by March 20, or he can take his free agency.
"I'm not thinking about that," Jones said. "If it happens, it happens. If I think about that, it puts more pressure on me. Rudy and [Ron Washington] just say go out and have fun. You don't lose everything in one year. The hands and the quickness are still there; I just need to trust myself."
Said Washington: "We're still going to run him out there and see what we've got until we have to make a decision. He's going to get at-bats until a decision is made."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.