Once upon a time, Andruw Jones was among the finest center fielders to ever play the game. His combination of Gold Glove defense and middle-of-the-order power made him a perennial MVP candidate, but that’s not who he is these days. His knees are battered, and his role is diminished. He’s with the Yankees to hit left-handers and play the outfield corners. That’s it.
And he might be finally starting to do that.
“When you sign a contract, you know what your role is going to be, so you have to make your adjustments,” Jones said. “So far, it’s paying off. I’m happy to win. That’s all I’ve wanted to do my whole career, go out there and help the team win.”
After hitting just .206/.310/.412 through his first 40 games, Jones has four home runs and two doubles in his past eight games. The sample size would make those numbers practically meaningless if not for what Jones did last season.
First half of 2011: .195/.278/.356 with four home runs and 12 RBI
Second half of 2011: .291/.416/.612 with nine home runs and 21 RBI
“Last year it took me a while, just like now,” Jones said. “It took me until the second half to get in a good groove and I finished strong. This year, hopefully it will be the same thing. Go out there, finish strong and help my team get where we want to be. Why not do it again?”
Jones did the same thing in 2010. For whatever reason — maybe because of the part-time role he now plays — Jones has taken a while to get hot the past few years. There were plenty of people calling on the Yankees to cut him last season, but he finished the year as a key bat. He doesn’t move like he used to, but he’s still a more-than-capable corner outfielder (including a nice diving catch last night).
If his recent output is a sign of another second-half surge, the Yankees offense could be in for a boost .
“As a hitter who doesn’t play every day, you can go longer without putting together some hits just because of the rhythm,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s had more playing time recently, we’ve seen some lefties here. He’s just swinging the bat well.”
Associated Press photo