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Jones' presence felt immediately

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Coaches and team officials intently watched his rounds of batting practice. Several Orioles veterans stopped by to introduce themselves. And anytime Adam Jones walked off the field, he was surrounded by media and inundated with autograph requests from young fans.

Jones, the 22-year-old outfielder who was the centerpiece in the Orioles' return from the Seattle Mariners for ace pitcher Erik Bedard, insists that he just wants to be treated like one of the guys. But in his first appearance in an Orioles uniform yesterday, he was clearly the main attraction, and that doesn't figure to change for a while.

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"I think everybody is looking at everybody," Jones said. "I'm not trying to come here and steal the show from anybody. They already got some good players - [Nick] Markakis, [Brian] Roberts and [Jay] Gibbons. It's a list of guys. I'm not trying to come here and say, 'I'm this, I'm that.' I'm just trying to play and be another guy."

Jones said he was pleased with his welcome until manager Dave Trembley informed him that he will need to shave his goatee before today's first workout for position players.

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"This is all I've grown in ... 22 years," Jones joked. "It's going to be a little weird. But meeting the guys, that's going to be the hardest part. It took me four or five years to remember the names in Seattle. Now, I got to learn the names all over again. But it's going to be a very exciting time here."

The Orioles expect Jones to be their starting center fielder, but he said he is coming into camp with the idea that he has to win a job. He spent much of yesterday hanging out with Tike Redman, Chris Roberson and Jay Payton, three of the competitors for the spot.

"I haven't proved anything in my eyes at this level," said Jones, who has hit .230 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 139 career major league at-bats. "I've been a prospect. To me, that means nothing. I have to produce with the team that I'm with. So far, I haven't produced anything to Baltimore, so I have a lot to prove."

Markakis arrives, too

Before becoming the two primary faces of the Orioles' rebuilding project, Jones and right fielder Markakis were teammates in the Arizona Fall League in 2005. Jones approached Markakis in the clubhouse yesterday, and the two hugged.

"The kid's got all the talent in the world," Markakis said. "He's only going to get better. I'm excited to get started and work with him."

Markakis normally says very little in the clubhouse, but he acknowledged that he will attempt to take a more vocal role this season.

"That's something that's going to be hard for me," he said. "It's something I'm going to work on, getting more comfortable with the guys and trying to help out in any way I can."

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Markakis also expressed hope that the club will hold on to All-Star Roberts, who has served as one of the outfielder's mentors the past two seasons.

"In my mind, he's the best second baseman and leadoff hitter in the game right now," Markakis said. "Anytime you have him on your team and anytime you have him on the bases, it's definitely a good feeling."

Hernandez confident

The Orioles lost out on free-agent shortstop Alex Cintron, who signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs yesterday, making it even more likely that Luis Hernandez will start the season as the Opening Day shortstop.

Hernandez, who has only 30 games of major league experience, reported to camp with the attitude that it's his job to lose. That has been his attitude since he learned in December - via a phone call from his agent - that shortstop Miguel Tejada had been traded to the Houston Astros.

"I was excited because I come here with an opportunity," said Hernandez, who hit .290 in limited action last season and impressed Orioles officials with his defense.

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His performance makes him the early front-runner over Freddie Bynum and Brandon Fahey to begin the season as the starting shortstop.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com


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