By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Adam Jones could not understand why an explanation was needed. The Baltimore Orioles' center fielder sat at his locker before last night's 9-1 win over the Washington Nationals and could not provide a rationale why, after an 0-for-9 series against the Chicago Cubs, he was 3 for 3 against the Washington Nationals on Friday.
When Jones followed with a 4-for-5 outing last night, he offered the same shrugged-shoulder response.
Nothing changed from the hitless streak except the result of the swings, he said. Jones sought no refuge in the batting cages. He added no quirks to batting practice. He neglected to change anything.
"The balls fell through," said Jones, who insisted he hit just as hard against the Cubs but the ball refused to find holes.
"It's the same approach I did when I struggled," Jones said before the game.
Even with the same approach, something was different, resulting in Jones tying a career high with four hits while also scoring three runs and stealing a base.
"He's gotten better pitches to hit, he's getting himself in better counts and using the other side of the field," Manager Dave Trembley said.
Jones said the Nationals tried to corner him with 0-2 counts and force him into swinging at high fastballs or change-ups. Jones refused to oblige.
"I haven't chased them," he said, "so that's making that bat a little better."
The production is a glimpse of what might become of Jones, the centerpiece of the Orioles' six-player trade involving Erik Bedard during the offseason. He's learning on the job after earning the starting center fielder spot from Opening Day, a rarity for a 22-year-old.
Jones's season statistics are modest -- he's batting .274 with four home runs and 28 RBI -- but his recent performance displays an adjustment to the majors. He is batting .337 this month after batting .226 in May. Last night was his 11th multi-hit game in June after just eight in the first two months of the season.
Jones still is learning, and another 0-for-9 streak might arrive as soon as another 7-for-8 streak. But the talent is present, the opportunity is available and Jones is beginning to take advantage of the combination.
"This is my first time playing and that's all we ever ask for," Jones said. "It's just the opportunity to play."