ATLANTA (AP) -The Braves gave Andruw Jones the night off Wednesday, hoping it will help their star slugger break out of a dismal slump.
Jones was hitless in 18 straight at-bats coming into the game against the Boston Red Sox, dropping his average to .202.
``It's not a surprise,'' he said. ``By sitting out and watching the game from the bench, I can get my mind away from it.''
While Jones has always been a streaky hitter, this is one of the most crippling slumps of his career. It couldn't have come at a worse time personally, either - he's in the final year of his contract and looking to land a huge deal in the offseason.
Jones insisted that he's not overly concerned about his low average, noting that he still has 11 homers and 42 RBIs. And he's best known for his defense in center field, winning nine straight Gold Gloves.
``I've never been an average hitter,'' said Jones, who came into this season batting .267 for his career. ``I've never been a .200 hitter, but average is not a big deal to me.''
Jones is one of the Braves' most durable players, missing only one game before Wednesday. Manager Bobby Cox decided this was a good chance to sit his struggling star since Atlanta is off Thursday, giving Jones a two-day break before he returns to the lineup against Detroit this weekend.
``I talked Andruw into taking a day off. And maybe he can sit on the bench and see how easy this can be,'' Cox said. ``Andruw's a tinkerer. He's working all the time. I hope the fans realize what a hard worker he is.''
Jones remembered a similar move by Cox when the outfielder got off to a slow start in 2005. He wound up hitting a career-high 51 homers and finished second in the National League MVP voting.
Jones followed up last season with 41 homers and a career-best 129 RBIs.
``I need to be a little more consistent,'' he said. ``I don't look at the numbers. I just go out there and try to help my team win.''
Notes: Cox was sprawled on his sofa before the game, resting a sore back. The 66-year-old manager was stricken by spasms that kept him from holding his usual pregame session with the media or coming out to the dugout to watch batting practice. He was on the bench for the game, but didn't follow his normal routine of coming to the mound to make pitching changes. When starter Buddy Carlyle was yanked in the fourth after Boston jumped out to a 7-0 lead, pitching coach Roger McDowell handled the duties.

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