Jones Says He Can Correct His Swing

Andruw Jones, meeting the Los Angeles media for the first time, was prepared when asked about his sub-par -- for him -- 2007 season. "I know the struggles I had last year, and it was a difficult season," Jones said. "I looked at a lot of film. The main thing was that my balance was messed up. I was too spread out. I'm working on my hitting every day to get my mind back to where it needs to be."

Jones, 30, struggled with his mechanics last season and finished the year batting .222. It was his lowest mark since he batted .217 in 1996, his first season in the majors, but he hit 26 home runs and drove in 94 runs, both higher than any Dodger during the season. Obviously, Jones in a down year is a vast improvement to the power-poor Dodger lineup.

The performance in his final year before free agency meant the five to seven-year deal for $200+ his agent Scott Boras, had been seeking went out the window.

Perhaps disappointing to Jones but a lucky break for the Dodgers who were able to sign him to a two-year, $36 million contract, along with a promise that could make him a Dodger for a much longer time.

"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."

Dodger GM Ned Colletti said, "If you look at his age, there is less concern. He hit 25-plus home runs and almost 100 RBIs and won a Gold Glove in center field. There are a lot of players that will never reach that. Most players will never reach that. What people consider a down year, or a year that was not to his standard, it was still better than most.

"His age was a huge factor, and his willingness to agree to the short-term deal didn't hurt."

Jones said he wasn't concerned about Dodger Stadium's reputation as a pitcher's park. Smiling, he said, "You don't hit many home runs against the Dodgers because they have good pitching.

"I will bounce back. I have never had a bad year like I had this year. But I had previous years when the home runs weren't there and years when the RBI weren't there."

Jones said he found the mechanical flaw in his hitting after watching hours of video at his home outside Atlanta immediately after the season.

"You don't always see it watching video during the season because you don't have time to sit down and look at yourself when you're struggling," Jones said. "You have to play a game the next day, so sometimes you can't catch stuff like that right away. I'm working on it now. I have a pitching machine, but that isn't the same as a pitcher.

"That's why you have spring training, to work on stuff like that, and I'm looking forward to starting a new season."

Jones said he would "love to" hit fourth and that he wanted to wear No. 25, the number he wore with the Braves. The number currently belongs to pitcher Esteban Loaiza.

"We need to discuss that," Jones said, grinning at Colletti.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal, Jones' close friend and former Braves teammate. helped recruit the outfielder. "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, who has won 10 Gold Gloves in a row, will play center field for the Dodgers, forcing incumbent starter Juan Pierre to move to left. Colletti said he spoke to Pierre last week about the change in position.

Colletti made it clear that Jones' arrival didn't make 23-year-old Matt Kemp expendable.

"I don't have any interest in trading Matt Kemp," Colletti said. "I think Matt Kemp has a chance to be a great player. Whether he does or not is up to him, but he has a tremendous amount of opportunity and potential to not just be a big league player, but to be a great big league player."

Hendrickson Non-Tendered
The Dodgers declined to offer reliever Mark Hendrickson a contract before the deadline and he became a free agent when the deadline was reached Wednesday at midnight.

The club still can re-sign him, and the move was made simply to avoid going through the arbitration process with Hendrickson, who went 4-8 with a 5.21 ERA this season while making $2.925 million. As a five-plus player, Hendrickson stood to make between $3.5 million and $4 million through arbitration.

The Dodgers decided to tender contracts to their other four arbitration-eligible players -- Joe Beimel, Yhency Brazoban, Scott Proctor and Jason Repko.

No Trade for Kemp
"I don't have any interest in trading Matt Kemp," general manager Ned Colletti said after new center fielder Andruw Jones was introduced to the media.

"He's close to being a great player. Whether it happens is up to him. He has a tremendous amount of potential to not only be a big leaguer, but a great big leaguer."

At the recent Winter Meetings, Kemp was the player other clubs desired most. Now, he figures to be the everyday right fielder, although there's still the problem of four outfielders for three positions since the acquisition of Jones.

In parts of two Major League seasons, Kemp has a .312 batting average with 17 homers and 65 RBIs. He hit .340 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in only 292 at-bats in 2007. Statistically and tools-wise, Kemp is the best all-around outfielder the Dodgers' farm system has developed since Raul Mondesi.

And he only turned 23 in September, having focused on basketball as a teenager.

"You can't forget," said Colletti, "that he's young and he's baseball young. Sometimes expectations exceed reality and experience. You see his potential greatness and you're taken by it. You expect to see it as soon as he steps on the field and it doesn't happen like that. But you don't hit .340 by chance."

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