When Orioles manager Dave Trembley requested that Adam Jones stop by his office during the rainout in Texas last week, the young center fielder assumed that he had done something wrong. Rarely does a player receive good news in these instances.
Jones was pleased and relieved to find out that Trembley wanted him to wear No. 42, with no name on the back of the jersey, for last night's game as part of Jackie Robinson Day, which honors the player who broke major league baseball's color barrier.
"First off, I froze because it was like, 'Wow.' I was stunned at the opportunity I'm getting," Jones said.
"I know a lot about [Robinson]. I know his playing career was tremendous, but the way he carried himself and handled all the [adversity], with the racism that he faced, that outlasts all the on-the-field accolades."
Jones, who hit his first home run as an Oriole last night, has read books on Robinson to learn more about the man and his legacy.
"I was interested in his on-the-field thing, but it was off the field that made him what he is," Jones said. "A lot of guys have better numbers than him, but every kid, every adult, knows the name Jackie Robinson.
"There's still segregation in this country, but to the extent that he had to face, there's nowhere near it. I know through the '80s and early '90s, there were a lot of African-Americans [in the majors], but in recent years the numbers have dropped. In his day and age, he was the only one. He was the token of everybody, and he had to face all that stuff."
Trembley said he chose Jones to honor Robinson because the club perceived that the center fielder "had an idea about the history of the game, and especially the representation of the game from the standpoint of an African-American."
"He looked at me and said, one, he was humbled, and two, he was honored, and three, he thought it was fitting because it was his mother's birthday," Trembley said.
"I just think the world of the guy. He is a very good representative of what we're all about here and where he's from and what he represents."
A baker's dozen
Trembley said the Orioles are committed to keeping 13 pitchers for a while, which is good news for Jim Johnson, who has thrown 3 1/3 scoreless innings in two relief appearances since joining the team over the weekend.
"I think your starting pitching will dictate whether it becomes a plus or a minus," Trembley said. "I'd really like to be in a situation where some of those guys in the 'pen don't get as much work. That would really tell you that the starting pitching is going deeper in games and we're scoring enough runs that I don't have to use guys in matchup situations late in the game.
"Of course, an injury to a position player would dictate that you might need somebody, but we could always get somebody on 24-hour notice. But I like what the 13-pitcher staff gives us right now, especially in the bullpen, and there's a sense of competition going on down there. And I dare say what [Matt] Albers did [Monday] night, some other people in that starting rotation took notice."
Albers held the Toronto Blue Jays to one run over five innings in Monday's 4-3 win.
Payton in left
"Payton's got to play. He's part of the team. He's been swinging the bat very well," Trembley said.
"I'll try to utilize every position player I have and not go more than three or four days in a row without getting them in there. You've got to keep your guys sharp."