02/20/10 3:31 PM EST
Jones champing at bit to get started
Center fielder sees himself assuming leadership role for Orioles
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
It could just as easily describe Jones. The 24-year-old, acquired from Seattle as part of a five-player haul for Erik Bedard prior to the '08 season, is one of the most dynamic two-way players in the American League. Last year, Jones enjoyed a breakout season, becoming the only Orioles player selected to the AL All-Star team and the first Baltimore outfielder to earn a Rawlings Gold Glove Award since Paul Blair in 1975.
But Jones is not satisfied. Not when a severely sprained left ankle robbed him of last season's final month. Not when there are whispers that he can't continue to play at such a high level.
"Because of all the accolades I got last year, you've got to repeat them," Jones said. "So that people think, 'Oh, hey, it wasn't just a fluke.'"
So after taking a month off to let his ankle heal, Jones was back at it this offseason, going through tedious rehab sessions and working his way up to game speed. By his own estimate, Jones was full-throttle by January, cutting and running at the breakneck pace that Orioles fans have grown accustomed to seeing as Jones chased down fly balls and scaled outfield walls.
And when the calendar flipped to February, Jones amped up his workouts and reported to Sarasota with the pitchers and catchers. On Friday morning, the young outfielder approached manager Dave Trembley to ask if he could go on the field and stretch during the pitchers' and catchers' time, nearly two hours before Jones was scheduled to begin the day's workout.
"I think he's anxious to get going," Trembley said.
Anxious might be an understatement. Jones got off to a torrid pace last season, hitting .344 with 11 homers over the first two months before a series of injuries led to a midseason lull. He was plagued by a balky right hamstring and back spasms, and suffered the left ankle sprain less than a week after he returned from his back ailment.
"That's the [frustrating] thing: That was a freak injury, " Jones said of the sprain, suffered on a hustle play that saw him overrun first base and try to get back. "The only way I know how to play the game is hard."
A former first-round pick, Jones, who makes no apologies for his passionate and outspoken nature, has previously expressed a desire to be a team leader in the Orioles' youthful clubhouse.
"I think [Jones] wants to assume lot more leadership here by example, and that's great," Trembley said. "I think that's really needed [and] welcomed."
But taking on a leadership role doesn't come without some growing pains, particularly for a player as young as Jones. As a 23-year-old still earning his stripes last season, Jones' tendency to be vocal was sometimes met with mixed reactions.
"I don't think Adam ever does anything that could be misrepresented as [anything] more than he tries so hard and he cares," Trembley said.
There are many examples on display daily to prove Trembley's theory, whether it's Jones taking another round of batting practice or the outfielder's willingness to stay and sign autographs long after other players have retreated.
"I think he probably wanted to do a little too much, too soon," Trembley said of Jones' mind-set last year. "I think he got out of his lane a little bit, because he wants to do so well.
"I think we have to remind him that the home runs are going to come; the power's going to come."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.