Originally created 08/17/99

Jones hopes to end slump



DENVER -- Andruw Jones hopes a trip to Coors Field will cure his August blues.

A .274 hitter in July, the Braves center fielder has fallen on hard times this month, primarily because he's returned to his old habit of swinging at breaking pitches off the plate.

Jones, who has demonstrated more patience this year than in the past, accepting 53 walks compared with 40 all of last season, still needs a refresher course every now and then.

When he's disciplined, he's a dangerous hitter. When he's not, he's an easy mark for pitchers who dangle sliders and curves off the outside corner. The result is a succession of popups and weak grounders, which increases Jones' frustration and deepens his slump.

That's what has happened this month. He has only seven hits in 48 at-bats (.146), dragging his average from .274 on July 31 down to .261.

"Maybe I'm a little tired," Jones said. "You've got to go through this part of the season too. I haven't seen anybody go through a season without going through a month where they struggle."

Last year Jones struggled in July (.235, 4 HR, 11 RBI), then rebounded with a strong August (.308, 8 HR, 20 RBI). This year it's just the opposite. He hit seven homers in July and drove in 20 runs, but has only two home runs and three RBI this month.

Jones has worked with hitting coach Don Baylor at keeping his front shoulder in and driving into the pitch, rather than pulling off the ball, which results in the pop flies and grounders. But it's easier said than done when four months of aches and pains begin to settle into a player's bones and the tiredness begins to sap his strength.

"I feel tired in my shoulders, so I try to be quicker and I open up too soon," Jones said. "I've got to try and stay into the ball and not pull off."

Jones should feel tired. He's the only Brave to start all 119 games this season. If he remains in the lineup, he could match the Atlanta record of playing in 162 games shared by Felix Millan (1969) and Dale Murphy (1982-85).

A dose of the Rockies might be just what he needs. He hit Colorado's staff at a .345 clip last season with three homers and is a .302 career hitter against Rockies pitchers. A four-game series, which opened Monday night with Greg Maddux facing Bobby Jones, in mile-high conditions may bring an abrupt end to his August blues.

"I think (my hitting) will come back," Jones said. "Hopefully it will be there in the postseason, when we need it the most."