Technically, Jones was disabled for the third time this year with tendinitis in his right knee, which also underwent arthroscopic surgery, a condition not needing surgery but extended rest. Realistically, the move was made to facilitate Saito's return without costing the Dodgers a player.
Even Jones couldn't argue with the decision.
"I don't feel 100 percent, I don't feel I can help the team, especially in this situation in the race," he said. "To be a bench guy, it takes me a while to warm up and get going. Right now, we need to play the other guys."
Jones finished the season hitting .158 with three homers and 14 RBIs, playing in 75 games. Not exactly what the club had in mind when it signed him to a two-year, $36.2 million contract at the Winter Meetings, the highest annual salary in club history.
Nor was it expected that Jones would arrive in Spring Training noticeably overweight, slow of foot and bat speed. And he compounded it with poorly chosen words about not caring what the fans thought about his play.
General manager Ned Colletti was non-committal whether he would approach the offseason assuming that Jones would be his starting center fielder for 2009.
"Yeah, I think he has a chance to be, but it's too far away for me to comment on it," Colletti said.
Jones, 31, is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star, but the Dodgers saw none of that. Colletti was asked if he remembered another player to fall so far so fast.
"I can't think of one and I've tried for the last five months," he said.
Jones called the season "a learning experience" and vowed to report to Spring Training in better shape. Manager Joe Torre said Jones will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
"I need to prepare better," Jones said. "I'm going to work on it this offseason and be better next year."
Said Torre: "Could he have been in better shape? Probably. Do I think that's totally to blame? No. He probably will be lighter, but it's more involved than just weight. A lot of it is emotional. He had never been with any team but the Braves. He basically had to start from scratch, and with the responsibility of coming here."
Torre said he was convinced Jones would be of no help the rest of the way after watching him struggle in a spot start Tuesday night in San Diego, lacking the outfield quickness that used to come naturally.
"We want him to be the player he has been. It's in there somewhere," Torre said. "I still have confidence he can get fixed. He's getting older, but he's not old. I watched him with Atlanta. In the outfield, he never took a backseat to anybody and he did it without a lot of effort. I envision the player I know being our everyday center fielder."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.