Universally respected Rangers' hitting guru
Thanks to that bold and meaningful declaration, plus the all-important support of team president
The Rangers and Jones met on Sunday, and the former Atlanta Braves star reportedly gave his OK to a part-time outfield and DH role if that's the way it works out. Even if he winds up as a part-time DH and backup outfielder to start the season, that's still a pretty good comeback from .158, three home runs and the cusp of oblivion.
Technically, Jones still has the right to leave Rangers camp today to seek a better situation elsewhere, and some other teams surely have noticed or heard about his enhanced stroke. The Yankees, Phillies and Braves were among the teams interested, even more so as Jones showed some semblance of his previous hitting form.
But with Texas, Jones has Jaramillo and manager
If Jaramillo is right, the Rangers could have an impact player for very little (the Dodgers are still paying almost all of his $22 million salary, though a vast majority of that is deferred now). This could be a very nice development for the Rangers, who took a low-cost look at the former star whose Hall of Fame career hit the skids last year in Los Angeles with an all-time bad performance.
But for Jones, it could be an even better story.
Just by sticking around this long on a team with a crowded outfield picture, Jones appears to be beating tremendous odds. His .158 average in 2008 caused the Dodgers to understandably give up on him, and his lack of power (three home runs, 14 RBIs) and high strikeout rate put his career on the brink.
Jaramillo's word is gold and goes a long way toward explaining why the Rangers didn't let Jones go only a few days after telling him he had little chance to make the team. While Jones seemed hopelessly lost early this spring and still has 14 strikeouts in 31 at-bats as a Ranger, he has looked revitalized of late -- almost since the moment the Rangers told him that it didn't look too good for him to make the team.
Last Thursday -- one day before his contract stipulated he could leave if he wasn't yet on the major-league roster -- Jones hit two home runs in a minor-league game, including one that traveled 450 feet. Decision day was pushed back to Monday, and it's likely to be pushed all the way until Opening Day now, with the most likely result being that Jones makes the roster. Jones could wind up sharing DH duties with
The Rangers were already trying to trade
Mauer has admitted as much after battling a fairly mysterious back ailment all spring, while Hamels appears to be holding some small hope he can be there at the start. More than likely, though, left-hander
Mauer only feels pain when he runs but not when he hits, catches or throws, and the Twins are feeling better after both the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins recommended anti-inflammatory drugs to combat what both believe to be inflammation of the sacroiliac joint, a rare ailment for a world-class athlete. Mauer's condition apparently isn't worrisome enough for the Twins to have pushed hard for Cooperstown-bound free-agent
For now, Minnesota will employ veteran journeyman
World Series MVP Hamels, who's said to be feeling fine after a cortisone shot and recent long-toss session, is slated to pitch on Tuesday in a minor-league game and is still optimistically pointing toward Opening Day. But realistically time is running short for him to open Philly's defense of its title on April 5. More likely, Happ (a Northwestern product, so I vow not to knock him; Hail to Purple, Hail to White) gets a call after a nice spring. Top prospect
Wieters has wowed scouts both offensively and defensively. ("He's the real deal,'' one scout said.) But the Orioles have told folks that they want to play it cautiously with Wieters, a former No. 5 overall pick who's generally considered the best catching prospect in baseball.
There is also a major financial benefit to starting such future stars in the minors, because it likely delays arbitration and free agency by a year. But Maddon said the real benefit is it allows the phenoms to come up without the glare of Opening Day.
The strategy makes some sense for teams that aren't expected to be contenders. Of course the Rays surprised everyone by not only contending but winning the stacked AL East last year. This shouldn't be an issue for Baltimore.
The Rays have been planning to demote to the minors pitching phenom
Whatever they decide now (and it may be too late for Price to change their minds), the Rays still expect Price to make a major impact for them this season.
One issue working against Price's wish to make the Opening Day roster is Niemann and Hammel are both out of options, and the Rays don't want to lose either talented pitcher. One of them is expected to be in the rotation, the other in long relief. The guess here is that the 6-foot-9 Niemann, another former first-rounder, gets the nod to start.
Maddon strongly suggested the plan was to start Price in the minors, explaining that this will be a way to keep Price's innings down. Maddon opined a demotion now will also give Price a chance to gain more seasoning.
Maddon pointed out that folks saw Price blow hitters away in a relief role ("Everyone saw him pitch in spurts,'' is the way Maddon put it), but that the Rays would like to see him first do three things: 1) lower his pitch counts, 2) show more consistent command of his fastball and 3) further develop his third pitch, the changeup.
"We want to make sure everything's in order,'' Maddon said. "Believe me, he's not far off.''
However, it seems a bit heavy-handed for the players union to now challenge all the donations currently written into contracts after the fact. Players signed their contracts knowing that these provisions were in them, and presumably are happy to contribute. The amount in dispute represents a relative pittance ($5.8 million) in a $6 billion industry. But most important, at a time when baseball needs positive publicity to offset all the steroid news, the union comes off as arguing for less charity even if the intention is only to prevent forced charity.
• Blue Jays closer
• Mets second baseman
• There's something wrong when
• The Nationals' moves seem a lot better since
• Most baseball people believe
• The Astros might be kicking themselves for letting
• As for
• Good job by the White Sox to get
• Also from the Bill Chuck files,
• Apologies to the Jays and fans of slugging sensation
• New Giants third baseman
• Congrats to the Yankees' resident author. Books by longtime Yankees official
• Amazing if the Marlins can win a another crucial round today and a new stadium in this economy.
• The WBC effect: The Cubs would like to see that kind of play from
• I guess