Jones was a key cog in the Twins' rise to perennial American League Central contenders in the early 2000s. His best all-around season for Minnesota was '02, when he batted .300 with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs in the first of three straight division-title runs for the Twins.Things haven't exactly turned out the way that Jones had envisioned since he left the Twins as a free agent after the 2005 season. He signed a three-year deal with the Cubs and got off to a strong start in his first season in Chicago, batting .285 with 27 home runs and 81 RBIs. The next season, his average remained the same, but he hit just five homers and 66 RBIs. At the end of 2007, the Cubs traded Jones to the Tigers. Just a month into his stint with Detroit, Jones was designated for assignment for the first time in his career. He was then picked up by the Marlins, but he lasted there about three weeks. In a combined 42 games with Florida and the Tigers in 2008, he batted .142 with a .239 on-base percentage. "I don't know what happened, other than I've always been a slow starter," Jones said. "If I had hit .210 the year before and .220 the year before that, I would have been able to accept it and say 'OK, I can't play. I can't do it.' But it was weird -- nine straight years in the big leagues of putting up some decent numbers, and one bad month and now I can't play anymore." Jones decided to try to get himself right mentally and went home for the rest of the season rather than try to hook up with another team. He wasn't ready to be done playing, but waited until the winter to go to Mexico to work on his swing. Jones spent a month playing winter ball with Obregon and batted .314 (37-for-118) in 29 games. The stint in Mexico helped Jones to sign a Minor League deal with the Reds for the 2009 season, which included an invitation to big league camp. But with a chance to grab a spot in the outfield, Jones batted just .089 in 45 spring at-bats. He was released toward the end of Spring Training, leaving him once again without a job. Still, Jones wasn't ready to throw in the towel on his career. In an effort to prove to himself that he could still play, Jones signed with the Bears in the independent Atlantic League last June. He batted .311 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 119 at-bats. "It was kind of like, 'If I can't do it here, there is no sense in thinking about getting back to the big leagues,'" Jones said. "But I did it so I'm like, 'Man, I can still play.' It's just a matter of getting an opportunity and taking advantage of it." Jones is getting another chance to try to revive his career, this time in the place where it all began, and there are plenty of people within the Twins organization rooting for him. "He's another one of these guys that's like my son," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Jones. "These guys I kind of grew up with in '02, my first manager year -- Jacque, Torii and all those guys. We were all close, really close. It's nice to have him back. ... I like coming in here and seeing his face. I hope he comes in here and plays well. It would be fun for us all."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.