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04/28/09 7:56 PM ET
In Hamilton's absence, Andruw adjusts
Aging Gold Glove center fielder re-learning to start in left
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- With Josh Hamilton out of the lineup, Andruw Jones is getting more time in the outfield. But right now it's in left field rather than the position where he won 10 Gold Gloves. Jones at one time was one of the best defensive center fielders in the history of the game, but Marlon Byrd was starting there for the Rangers on Tuesday. That's probably the way it's going to be as long as Hamilton is out. "Marlon has been playing center field here the last three years and has been doing a great job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I'm going to go with the guy who I feel is beneficial to the team, and right now it's Marlon. This is my call." Jones was the National League Gold Glove winner for the Braves from 1998-2007, but he is obviously not the defensive player he was in Atlanta. He had surgery on his right knee last season and suffered from tendinitis in the left knee, as well. He also hyper-extended the right knee last week in Toronto. "Nobody is going to be like that forever," Jones said. "Obviously, I'd rather play center field than any other position, but that's not my decision. I'm not thinking about that. When they signed me, it was to be a DH and fill in for guys in the outfield. I put my mind into being a DH and improving my hitting ... being more consistent there." He is more than willing to play left, but also knows it's different than center field. "I haven't played left field since '97," Jones said. "It's a little awkward, but when the ball comes your way, you have to make an adjustment and catch the ball." The Rangers used Jones in center field in Spring Training, but that was part of the evaluation that ultimately determined that he was best suited for the role of fifth outfielder and part-time DH. "He's still a very good, knowledgeable outfielder," outfield coach Gary Pettis said. "He can still play all the positions if they need him, but right now we have some guys who can handle center field well. Andruw has played out there a long time, but he's got a lot of wear and tear on his legs and body from running and diving. Center field is a taxing position. "As guys get older in their baseball careers, they sometimes need a break from something. If this is a way to keep him fresh by playing left field and DH, it's better for the club. Marlon's legs just don't have the wear-and-tear that Andruw has. But he still has the ability and the knowledge to play anywhere out there."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.