The sight of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones crashing into an unpadded portion of the Kauffman Stadium wall while chasing a fly to left-center field Thursday afternoon was enough to make his teammates cringe.
Then there was the sound.
"It was a thud," said left fielder Steve Pearce, punching his fist into his open hand to simulate the impact. "He hit that thing pretty good. ... Then, after [the ball] went past, he couldn't slow down."
Still, the Orioles have seen Jones — their on- and off-field leader — go to the ground many times before only to get back to his feet quickly. This time, he didn't, lying face down, motionless on the warning track for several moments.
Pearce waved to the dugout for help.
"Usually Adam is the type of guy when he dives, he gets right back up," Pearce said. "When he was staying down and from what I heard, I was like, 'Whoa, someone get out here,' because that was pretty scary."
As he has before, Jones was masterful at playing it down. He talked himself, and both manager Buck Showalter and head trainer Richie Bancells, into staying in the game. But in the third inning of the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals, Jones was removed for pinch hitter Paul Janish.
"That's one of [the hardest hits I've taken]," Jones said. "I don't come out of the game much, especially once the game starts. I just wasn't me. And hopefully I feel a lot better tomorrow. … Just didn't feel myself, so there's no point in me not feeling myself. We've got a great team, great guys that can go in there and fill in. I'm not going to be out there when I'm not myself."
Showalter said Jones had a variety of symptoms from what he called the whiplash of the collision. Jones was dizzy and had blurry vision, but it doesn't appear he suffered a concussion, Showalter said. Jones also had X-rays taken on both wrists and his neck, which Showalter said all came back negative.
"Anytime Adam says anything is bothering him, you better multiply it times two because he's a tough nut," Showalter said. "He was giving us pretty good symptoms there, but when he came back in and he was looking out at [Royals starter Yordano] Ventura between innings, you could tell something was amiss from the whiplash. And anybody who's had it, it does some things. Confident he'll be OK shortly, but that's yet to be seen when."
Jones is confident he will return to the team's starting lineup Friday when the Orioles open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. Before the game, Jones is scheduled to be examined by Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister.
Jones' injury occurred on Ben Zobrist's drive into the left-center field gap with one out in the top of the first. In mid-stride, Jones lunged at the ball, which bounced just beyond his reach and one-hopped into the stands. Jones said he wasn't able to get his body upright before hitting an unpadded part of the fence where there is an electronic scoreboard display and a rotating advertisement wall.
"Go out there and run against one of them walls," Jones said. "The stuff doesn't feel good. The stuff looks soft from the eye but it's not as soft as it is. … I just had to catch my breath. Just had to gather what was going on. Happened so fast. I was just giving myself a second to think and process what's really going on."
Already without Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy, the Orioles can't afford another key injury, let alone to their franchise player, as they try to claw their way back into the playoffs over the regular season's final weeks.
Following a 1-hour, 35-minute rain delay before the game's first pitch, Ventura bent but didn't break Thursday. He struck out a career-high 11 batters over six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits despite four walks. Janish, who pinch hit for Jones in the top of the third, had the Orioles' only two hits off Ventura.
"I was not expecting to get in the game, but I guess it worked out OK," Janish said. "The ambush was a good tactic. It's unfortunate. I haven't heard about Adam, but I hope that he's OK. Unfortunately, we weren't able to win the game."
The Orioles (63-64) struck out 14 times on the day as they moved back under .500.
Their offense was too little and too late. Ryan Flaherty hit a solo home run off reliever Kelvin Herrera to open the seventh inning. Flaherty's homer, his sixth of the season, was his second in as many games against the Royals (78-49).
The Orioles rallied for two runs in the ninth off Kansas City reliever Greg Holland on Caleb Joseph's run-scoring double and Manny Machado's RBI single. Still, the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs in seven of eight games and eight of 10.
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (9-9) allowed four runs over six innings to suffer his second straight loss since winning seven decisions in a row.
"Overall, it was OK," Tillman said of his performance. "Our game plan coming in was to keep the ball on the ground. For the most part, that's what we did. Made some mistakes that they were able to hit hard and drive. Overall, we were able to get a lot of soft contact into the ground."
Seven of Ventura's first eight outs were strikeouts. The Orioles put runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but stranded their first five base runners.
After the game, Showalter — who isn't shy in dissecting his player safety concerns in other ballparks — stewed about the circumstances that allowed his best player to get hurt. This is the second time that Jones was injured hitting an unprotected portion of an outfield wall at a visiting stadium. When the Orioles played at Yankee Stadium in May, Jones crashed into a clear Plexiglas panel on the wall that allows pitchers to watch the game from the bullpen. He was hurt on that play as well, but remained in the game and missed no time.
"Most of it he took putting his wrists up there on this structure that they let them put up there so they can sell more signage," Showalter said. "You go figure. It's Plexiglas right behind it. It's like running into Plexiglas. … You've heard me go on and on about it and this is a great example of it. I know why they do it, so they can sell more signage to pay more contract. I got it. But the safety issue there, I'm not happy about it."