SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles center fielder Adam Jones clearly ruffled some front-office feathers at FanFest when he questioned whether the team had done enough over the offseason to improve its outfield defense.
So, baseball operations chief Dan Duquette ruffled back Monday, citing comments by retired outfielder and ESPN analyst Doug Glanville that one way the Orioles could improve their defensive range in the outfield would be if Jones gave a little more ground in center.
This is what makes for controversy during the pre-exhibition phase of spring training, and Jones didn't pass up the chance to hold serve. He responded sarcastically when asked during his first interview session of spring camp if he would entertain that possibility.
"We shall see," he said Saturday. "I might be up in that center field [roof-deck bar] having a few pops during the game if that's where they want me to play, but at the end of the day I'm going to do what I do and that's just how it works."
If you were looking for anything else, you haven't been paying attention for the past nine seasons. Jones has made it increasingly clear over that period that unless you want his sometimes brutally honest opinion on something, don't ask for it.
He isn't going to apologize for saying something three weeks ago that remains hard to dispute. The major outfield addition of the winter was right fielder Seth Smith, a solid veteran who was acquired more for his left-handed bat and on-base potential than his outfield range. The Orioles added some more speed Saturday with the signing of utility outfielder Craig Gentry, but there are only so many outfield spots on the 25-man roster.
Jones doesn't go out of his way to be outspoken. He didn't exactly call a news conference in his corner of the Orioles' spring clubhouse. He just showed up at his locker and was immediately surrounded by a small crowd of reporters, most of whom had been waiting a couple of days for him to respond to Duquette's passive-aggressive suggestion.
Jones apparently wasn't surprised that he had struck a nerve with his blunt evaluation of one of the areas that was identified as an offseason priority.
"I told the truth," Jones said. "I guess people don't like hearing the truth. Oh well. We're grownups. We're professionals. We'll handle it the right way."
For Jones, the right way to handle any situation apparently is head on, even at times when diplomacy might be the better part of valor. He bristled at the notion that it's possible to be too honest sometimes.
"What's too honest? Telling the truth?" he said. "I think that shows that I care. I'm here for one reason. I'm not here to be friends with anybody. I'm here to win, and at the end of the day I think that's what we're all here for. From myself to the PR people to the general manager [and] everybody that scouts, I think we're all in the same mission to win a championship for Baltimore. If they want to have friends, I've got my own friends. I don't need any more friends. I'm here for one reason and that's to win."
How long he will be here also came up Saturday. Jones' contract stretches through 2018 and he has given every indication that he would like to remain in Baltimore well beyond that season, but he deflected questions about a possible contract extension, saying that his long-term future with the team is "not up to me."
"Do you want me to go to Peter [Angelos] and say, 'Excuse me Mr. Angelos, can I have some more money?'" he said. "That's not going to happen. If you go out and handle your things between the lines, everything will handle itself."
Jones seems determined to do that. He arrived in camp leaner than he was at the end of last season and said he's ready to play as much as he can to prepare for the World Baseball Classic. And if anyone got the impression from his comments at FanFest that he lacks confidence in his teammates or the team's front-office braintrust, think again.
"I think I'm always the most positive guy when it comes to the guys in the clubhouse," he said. "I always love the guys we have. I'm not afraid to say that. … When we go up north, I don't know who we're going to go up with exactly, but I know that we're going to be ready to play baseball and ready to play a season. I'm not concerned about who we have in here right now. I just know that at the All-Star break when we're at the trade deadline and we're in extreme competition, I know that the front office — Buck [Showalter], Dan and Peter – will get us the help that we need."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.