In a season when the Orioles are clinging to their playoff chances and searching for a spark anywhere they can find one, it's more often than not been one of their most familiar faces that's provided it.
Center fielder Adam Jones, in his 10th full major league season at age 32, is on pace for yet another season with over 150 games played and is back producing close to his career levels after a down 2016. He has hit all over the top half of the lineup, and is fulfilling the philosophies of both his professional mentor, Nick Markakis, and Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. — if you're going to play, play well.
"I just think I've always been a firm believer that if you're healthy and available, you should be able to do something," Jones said. "I've always prided myself on durability. I came to Baltimore, the first guy I'd seen here and really tried to model myself after was Markakis because he went out and posted up every day. And I'm a firm believer that if you post up every day, you should do something. That's what's been happening.
"Your body is always going to bother you, especially when you play every day, but I don't know. If you play, just play. If you play, you should do something. That was Cal Ripken's thing. If you play, play."
Finding that balance hasn't always been an easy one for Jones and manager Buck Showalter, as no matter the soreness Jones might feel from playing center field on a daily basis, he's not often willing to take himself out of the lineup.
"Adam has been a guy who it's a pretty short conversation I have with him, and he's been real frank with me when he needs a day and when he doesn't," Showalter said. "Every once in a while, I try to get ahead of it and tell him it's going to happen. Sometimes you don't want to put him in that position, because he's always going to go from the competitive side, especially this time of year."
The results for Jones this year have been more in line with what the Orioles have come to expect from him. In 2016, Jones dealt with a variety of nagging injuries and hit .265/.310/.436 with 29 home runs. Though by advanced metrics, it was his first below-average offensive season since 2008, the year before he made his first All-Star Game. His weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which adjusts performance for park and era factors and compares it to the league average of 100, was 96.
He's back to normal this year, though. Jones entered Friday's game batting .278/.315/.467 with a 103 wRC+. His career mark is 107.
For an Orioles team that has really only had the breakout seasons of All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop and rookie Trey Mancini to rely on consistently, Jones' production and presence has been an important one. Jones said it's just as much a credit to everyone else as anything he did, though his own energy has been a constant all year. He came into spring training prepared for the World Baseball Classic, where he took on a starring role with the champion Team USA group before carrying that into the season. He missed a few days with hip and ankle soreness in late May, but otherwise, it's been prescribed days off from the manager.
"I just know that my teammates keep me young and vibrant," Jones said. "They keep my energy level high, and I come every day ready to support myself and support my teammates. It all falls in line."
"It's great to just have him every day — you know you're getting the same guy," Mancini said. "Whether he's doing well or not or the team is doing well or not, he's the same person every day when he comes to the clubhouse. He doesn't change. He always brings a great attitude and a lot of liveliness to the clubhouse and everybody else. That's a great presence to have — 162 games is a long season, and to have somebody who does that every day is pretty key."