SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Andruw Jones had never felt as much pressure as he did during his one miserable season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now the five-time All-Star center fielder is a non-roster player with the Texas Rangers, trying to earn a spot on the team in spring training and prove he's not done at 31.
"It was tough and I think mentally, it was a great experience for me to go through, so I can realize how it is to play in a different atmosphere after being in one organization for so many years," Jones said.
Jones' cross-country move from Atlanta to Hollywood for a $36.2 million contract lasted only an injury-plagued 2008 season. He hit a hard-to-fathom .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 games. He made the first three trips to the disabled list of his career.
"He made his name for himself early and is just going through some bad times," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday. "Sometimes when you go through bad times when you start to creep up on your age a little bit, although he's young, the industry starts to think maybe he's through."
Two months after making his major league debut with Atlanta at 19 years old in mid-August 1996, Jones became the youngest player ever to homer in a World Series game. He then averaged 157 games from 1997-2007, hitting at least 25 home runs and earning Gold Gloves in each of his last 10 seasons with the Braves.
"He was in the big leagues hitting bombs in the World Series at 19. He hasn't had a lot of adversity in his career, he hasn't had a lot of failure," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "When guys first fail at the big-league level, typically it's their first year or two and they've got to make that adjustment. He's going through it later in his career."
Only Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have played more games than Jones' 1,805 since 1997.
Atlanta let Jones become a free agent after he hit only .222 in 2007, then he signed the big two-year deal with the Dodgers.
The Rangers were willing to give Jones a chance even though they already had All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton in center field along with three other returning outfielders who started at least 59 games last year.
It didn't cost Texas much: Jones will get only a $500,000, one-year contract with a chance to earn about $1 million more in performance bonuses if he makes the roster. Jones is owed $22 million from the Dodgers, much of that deferred over the next six years.
During the first week of spring training games, Jones didn't get many quality chances. Most of his at-bats came after the starters were out of the game and he was often overanxious to do something.
"I knew when I came here what the rule was," Jones said. "You're just trying to get as many at-bats as you can so you can get in that comfort zone that you've been in before."
Jones has spent many hours in the batting cage and hitting on back fields with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, trying to eliminate some of the bad habits that have hampered him recently.
Before an extended look Friday, Jones was 2-for-14 with two singles and 10 strikeouts his first six games.
"It was tough, you come into a game and try to get one at-bat or two at-bats, trying to get the job done and still trying to work on the mechanics," Jones said. "Talking to Rudy, he told me just clear your mind and everything is there."
Jones got 10 at-bats Friday, going 3-for-5 with a home run off major leaguer Jamey Wright while batting in every inning of a 'B' game against Kansas City. He then played all nine innings of the main game in center field and went 2-for-4 with a walk. Jones was 2-for-4 again Saturday as the designated hitter.
"He's shown me that his timing is coming back," Washington said. "We're going to see him do well. … The main thing that I've noticed that may have been missing is his confidence."
Los Angeles wanted Jones' bat to boost its offense. But he reported to spring training overweight, was booed by fans, had knee surgery in May and didn't play after Sept. 9 while the Dodgers won the NL West with trade deadline acquisition Manny Ramirez.
"Things just didn't fall in the right place," Jones said. "I hurt my knee trying to come back and do what everybody would expect me to do. It was a big pressure on me to carry a team into the playoffs, until they got Manny Ramirez and they did."
If not placed on the major league roster by March 20, Jones can opt out of his deal with the Rangers.
"I'm really not even thinking about that," Jones said. "The main thing is just get the quality at-bats, get consistently making solid contact. … If it comes up to that point and they say we want you or we want to see you more and make a decision, things might push back."