Andruw Jones hit as many home runs in one game for the Texas Rangers earlier this month _ three _ as he did all last season as a high-priced, free-agent bust for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That night earlier against the Angels in Anaheim _ oh so close to Dodger Stadium _ provided a flashback to the player who as a 19-year-old rookie for Atlanta hit two home runs in his first World Series game in 1996. The same player who was a Gold Glove center fielder 10 straight seasons and hit at least 25 homers each year.
Now 32, Jones is a part-time player in Texas trying to prove that what once seemed to be a sure-bet Hall of Fame career isn't done yet.
"Every year when I have a goal, it's just to have a better year than I had the year before," Jones said, a slight grin creeping onto his face before finishing his thought. "I think that's kind of accomplished already."
While his batting average has dipped to .227 with a 2-for-27 slump since the three-homer outburst July 8, that is still drastically better than last year in Los Angeles. So are his 14 homers and 34 RBIs in 54 games.
Jones hit a hard-to-fathom .158 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 75 games for the Dodgers, who cut him despite still owing him nearly $22 million for the unplayed second season of a $36.2 million deal. That deal had given him the fifth-highest average salary in the major leagues.
His paltry offensive numbers came while also having the first three disabled list stints of his career because of a right knee problem.
The Rangers offered a minor league deal, and Jones got their final roster spot out of spring training only after the five-time All-Star agreed to a role as fifth outfielder and part-time designated hitter.
"We didn't necessarily expect that," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He made a pretty strong signal at that point that he wanted to be part of something, and didn't necessarily have to be the lead dog."
Daniels also said he believes Jones had put himself in a position to play beyond this season.
Being in Texas provided the chance to work with renowned Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, but Jones also has had to adjust to not being a regular in a lineup that includes All-Star outfielders Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.
"It's tough, but when I came here I knew what was going to be the role," Jones said.
After being the youngest player with a World Series homer, Jones averaged 157 games played a year from 1997-2007 before the Braves decided not to re-sign him after the end of his $75 million, five-year deal.
He hit 368 homers with 1,117 RBIs for Atlanta and was runner-up for the NL MVP award in 2005, when he had 51 homers and 128 RBIs. There were also all the spectacular defensive plays, crashing into walls and diving for catches.
"I've never seen a better center fielder than I can remember than when he was in the middle of his run here," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "He worked hard to make a comeback and be taken seriously. I think he had his pride hurt a little bit."
When pitcher Greg Maddux's No. 31 jersey was retired by the Braves last week, he remembered Andruw Jones and shortstop Rafael Furcal as "two guys (that) caught everything in the world for us."
Rangers pitcher Kevin Millwood was in the minor leagues with Jones before they were teammates in Atlanta from 1997-2002. Millwood remembers him as a great player then, and said that is no different now despite the bad run with the Dodgers.
"Everybody goes through a situation where they're not happy and things don't work out, and I think that's where his confidence got killed," Millwood said. "Now he's somewhere he's happy and enjoying his time, and I think that's kind of building his confidence back up."
Though it seems unlikely that Jones will ever add to his Gold Glove collection, he is proving in Texas that his knee is healthy and that he still has the desire to keep playing.
"I think everybody thinks I'm old because I've been in the league for a while," he said.
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum and freelance writer Amy Jinker-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.