Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rangers Eye Andruw Jones as Cleanup Hitter

Apparently not put off by numerous reports that outfielder Andruw Jones was difficult to direct if not altogether uncoachable before being run out of town by the Dodgers, hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has made the newly acquired former superstar his personal project at Rangers camp in Surprise, Ariz. with the idea of converting him to a cleanup hitter.

Jones -- criticized as being slow and overweight while playing in Los Angeles -- has signed a minor league contract with the Rangers and reported to camp 25 pounds lighter than his playing weight last year. Key to getting Jones turned around will be rediscovering his homerun swing, which observers said seems to have been lost in bad mechanics at the plate, especially an infirm and erratically planted right shoe or "happy foot."

Manager Ron Washington recently told the Dallas Morning News that Jones is in the mix to bat behind No. 3 hitter Josh Hamilton, who reportedly tended to wilt at times last year due to lack of protection in the lineup.

"It all depends on how the team shakes out," Washington said.

Jones, 31, has been a shadow of his former self for two and a half seasons, though he hit 41 homers in 2006.