Jones: I never asked for a trade
Outfielder wants to erase tumultuous '06 experience
MESA, Ariz. -- Let's set the record straight: Jacque Jones did not ask to be traded from the Cubs.
"I never asked for a trade," Jones said Saturday. "Was I uncomfortable with some things that happened? Of course. Was I uncomfortable having a ball thrown at me? Was I uncomfortable being called a [racial epithet]? Yes. But I never asked for a trade."
Jones had an eventful first season with the Cubs in which a fan threw a ball at him from the bleachers, he received hate mail, and was jeered because of a slow start. His throwing wasn't great, but that ended up being the result of problems with his left shoulder, which he didn't reveal until the end of the year.
There were rumors that the Cubs were trying to deal him at his request, that he wanted to leave after the team decided not to retain Dusty Baker as manager. Not true.
"I want to help the team win," Jones said. "I went into the offseason looking to come back and have another good season here. I can't worry about if people are surprised [he's back] or not. I'm a Cub and that's it.
"I came to the park every day to play, play hard, help our team win," he said. "People can assume what they want, because Dusty got fired, or this, that or the other. Of course, I have my opinion about situations that happened, and if I was wrong for feeling that way, I was wrong."
Jones wanted to make sure new Cubs manager Lou Piniella got the message right, and called the skipper this winter to clear things up.
"To see things in the paper was kind of surprising," Jones said. "All I can do is tell you how I feel and just go out and play and play hard. I don't want to bring attention to myself or attention to the team."
Looking back, Jones says he should have refrained from comments he made last April regarding the Wrigley Field fans who booed him. He'll be more careful now.
Jones focused on his shoulder this winter, going to therapy three days a week. Jones and Cubs pitcher Mark Prior worked with the same physical therapist in San Diego. Jones would be the first to admit his defense looked bad.
"I was embarrassed by the way I threw the ball last year," he said.
He's throwing just fine.
"I'm able to get up over the top," he said. "I don't have to fight to find an arm slot. At the end, I was trying to do too much too fast. I feel good about it."
Most teams would want an outfielder who can hit .285, 27 homers and 81 RBIs. Those were Jones' numbers last season. They didn't matter to him.
"It was disappointing in that we didn't have a good season, and we didn't get to the postseason," Jones said of the Cubs' last-place finish in the National League Central. "I can't dwell on what I did. We didn't do anything. I've never been an 'I' or personal type of guy. As long as my team does well, I'm good. If it doesn't, I'm not. Hopefully, we can come back and right some of the things that went wrong last year."
There's a chance Jones could be playing center field if Alfonso Soriano isn't comfortable there. It's a position he's familiar with.
"The only reason I didn't play center in Minnesota is because of a guy named Torii Hunter," Jones said of the six-time Gold Glove winner. "I played a little bit and he did what he did, and that's why I didn't play center. If they ask me to play center, I'll play center. If they ask me to play right, I'll play right."
There are plenty of new faces on the Cubs this season. Jones, who signed a three-year deal before the 2006 season, likes what he sees so far.
"I'm not wavering from how I felt when I came over here," he said. "I thought this was a good team, I thought this was my best chance to get back to the playoffs and maybe to a World Series and that's why I came here."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.