Dodger blues: Early struggles dogging Andruw

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LOS ANGELES --- Andruw Jones keeps his emotions in check, as he believes a professional athlete should.

He won't slam his bat to the ground after a rally-killing strikeout or thrust his fist in the air after a game-winning homer.

This year, there have been way more strikeouts (38) than home runs (one) for Jones. But don't be fooled by his demeanor. This hurts.

"People think I'm relaxed and laid back. It's eating me up inside," Jones said, the sadness evident in his eyes. "I'm upset. I'm embarrassed. ... I know I'm better than this."

The 31-year-old Jones was certainly a lot better during an exceptional 11-plus years in Atlanta, where he hit 368 homers, drove in 1,117 runs and won 10 Gold Gloves in center field.

Now, with five RBI and a .170 batting average, Jones isn't even close to hitting his weight, which just so happens to have become an issue in his dreadful start with the Dodgers.

"It has nothing to do with it," insisted Jones, listed at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds. "Everybody can say, 'He's fat, he's this, he's that.' I feel great. I go out there; I can run the ball down. I feel fine.

"... It's not like I haven't played this game before. This is the worst start I've ever had, and I've had awful starts. All you can do is keep working. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Looking for a middle-of-the-lineup power hitter and outfield defense, the Dodgers thought they got both when they signed Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million contract.

They haven't gotten any bang for their buck -- at least not yet. But as Braves manager Bobby Cox said, it's early.

"There's quite a few really good hitters in baseball hitting below .200," said Cox, who managed Jones throughout his career in Atlanta. "There's six months to play, not just 30 days."

Joe Torre, in his first year as the Dodgers' manager, said he's not about to give up on Jones.

"I'm staying with him because I just don't believe he can't hit anymore," Torre said. "I know how important he has to be for us to do well, so we need to get him started."

Torre said he believes Jones has had a tough time adjusting to his exit from Atlanta.

"This is the first time he's left the nest," the manager said. "He's been with an organization his whole life. He ventures out; he doesn't do very well."

Jones said he's never heard such negative crowd reaction.

"Not at home," he said. "It's tough to deal with. If you're not doing well, the fans are going to boo you."

In his first at-bat Saturday night, Jones struck out on three pitches. The boos at Dodger Stadium became louder with each swing and miss.

Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny said he wishes that would stop.

"I've never played with a nicer guy," Penny said. "Every Dodger fan should be cheering for him to come out of this. ... We're good right now. When he starts hitting, we'll be great."


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