Adam Jones has no interest in dissecting his at-bats, not during his early struggles at the plate, and still not now that he emerged from his five-week funk to start the season.
"I've felt comfortable since day one. It's just you guys want to talk about results," Jones said earlier this week. "When I'm not hitting good, [people ask], is something hurting? No, it's just sometimes you suck, man. It happens. It's life. It's sports. You suck sometimes."
The answer coincides with the see-ball, hit-ball mantra that Jones has seen success with over his career. But in some ways, the answer is classic Jones.
He's not giving in. He's not giving in to the highly prevalent notion that last month's rib cage strain is behind his sweepy swings throughout April. He's not giving in to acknowledging any sense of frustration at the plate, nor is his giving himself any extra credit for pulling himself out of a problematic start to the season.
"The same things that, I don't want to say frustrate you about him, are the same things that endear him to me and you, because he never gives in and he never takes himself too seriously," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He'll walk into the [dugout]. I hear him down the runway and stuff, talking to himself. You never have to take out any frustration on him because you know he's taking it out on himself. I tell him, 'You've got this. I know.' And if I keep my wits about it while other people are in a state of panic, you get a return."
Jones has often been a fast starter to the season. His .289/.331/.480 slash line over his career in the opening month of the season shows that. But Jones spent most of April with his average floating around .200.
After the Orioles were rained out Monday night in Minnesota, the team bus had already left. Showalter thought he and bench coach John Russell were the only ones who remained before he heard the sound of batted balls coming from the indoor batting cage area down the hallway. It was Jones.
"It goes through three stages," Showalter said. "There's one where you just kind of go from experience through the years, [you tell yourself], 'I've got to keep grinding. It's going to happen.' We call it the osmosis theory almost. And then you go through the period where you are doing too much and then you back off. And then you're waiting for a couple swinging bunts and a broken-bat [hit]. And then every time he's hit a ball hard, somebody's catching it."
After hitting just one home run in his first 26 games this season, Jones has hit four homers in his past five games, the first three of which were loud tape-measure blasts.
He is 11-for-21 over those five games, raising his season batting average 59 points to .259.
The two-hit, three-RBI game Jones had in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Twins seemed to get him going. He followed Manny Machado's solo homer in the fifth with one of his own — a loud blast that went an estimated 453 feet onto Target Field's left-field second deck. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game that same night, Jones rapped a 2-2 pitch into left-center field for a game-winning two-run single.
His homer the next day didn't go as far — an estimated 399 feet — but its exit velocity of 110.5 mph made it his hardest-hit ball of the season.
And the solo blast Jones hit to break a scoreless tie in Friday's 1-0 win over the Detroit seemed just as scalding. It was launched into the Orioles bullpen beyond the left-center-field fence an estimated 412 feet. His three homers before Saturday's had exit velocities of 103.9 mph or higher. In layman's terms, he smoked them.
Jones is now hitting the ball with much more authority. His season exit velocity is 93.1 mph heading into Saturday, which is equal to that of Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and better than the likes of Yoenis Cespedes (93.0), Andrew McCutchen (92.5), Nolan Arenado (92.4) and teammates Manny Machado (92.3) and Chris Davis (89.9). Jones' nine hits before Saturday were an average exit velocity of 100.3 mph.
"He's coming around," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "He had a good series. He's starting to hit the ball more consistently over the last week. He's established a high standard for himself based on his previous seasons in Baltimore, so we all expect it, that when we look in the book at the end of the year, the level he's established, he'll maintain that level. He takes pride in playing every day."
After going hitless in four at bats in the Orioles' 3-1 win at the Tampa Bay Rays on April 27, Jones' season batting average fell to a season-worst .196. The next day, when the Orioles opened a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox, Showalter dropped Jones to fifth in the batting order, the lowest he hit since 2011. He raised his batting average 29 points over that series, but he also grounded into double plays on three consecutive days. Jones entered Saturday tied for the major league lead by hitting into eight double plays.
"We were winning games," Jones said. "I'm a professional. I'm not a 'sit there and cry baby.' I know how to handle adversity. That's why I'm a professional. Most people get angry and throw stuff and break remotes. I played with a couple friends in Madden recently and they get mad and started throwing remotes. That's not how you handle adversity."
Jones is aggressive at the plate, and Showalter always points out that's one of the reasons he's a great hitter. As much as it can be frustrating to watch Jones flail at breaking balls out of the zone, his production has always made his recklessness palatable. But when he was struggling, some of those quick at-bats — especially the ones that ended with a double play — amplified his struggles.
Keep in mind, however, that Jones was a .350/.381/.750 hitter when connecting on the first pitch of the at-bat through Friday. Two of his four homers this year have come on first pitches, the other two on the second pitch of the at-bat.
The double-play balls have killed rallies, but Jones also entered Saturday hitting .381 with runners in scoring position this season, going 8-for-21 in those situations. Also, three of his eight walks have been with runners in scoring position, an indication that he's attempting to work counts in run-scoring opportunities instead of trying to do too much.
Still as Jones' slump dragged on, he said if he wasn't hitting, he was poised to make a difference on defense, and has displayed great range in center field. Jones' range factor per game — a number that gauges range based on batted balls a defense makes plays on — is 2.60, which ranked third among American League center fielders and fourth among all AL outfielders through 34 games.
"The thing I love about Adam, and he's said this, 'If I'm not getting mine, someone else isn't getting theirs tonight. I'm going to catch a ball that's going to be a hit,'" Showalter said. "And his defense has been as good as it's ever been. Actually, I think he's throwing better. His shoulder [is healthy]. I love the fact that he doesn't ever use it as an excuse and it sets a great tone here."
Jones dealt with a litany of injuries last season. Shoulder, back, wrist and ankle injuries limited him to 137 games, the fewest he played since 2009. During spring training, Jones didn't throw much to keep his shoulder fresh.
Last month, a rib cage injury he suffered overexerting himself on a swing forced him out of the starting lineup for six. But Jones insisted there hasn't been anything wrong with him physically since returning from the initial injury.
"I've felt great every game," Jones said. "If I didn't feel great, I wouldn't play them. The games I missed, I didn't feel good."
"He may have changed some mechanics a little bit," Showalter said. "[Hitting coach] Scott [Coolbaugh] and I have talked about that. But now he might have gotten some habits that he's trying to correct a little bit. We talk a lot about trying to stay tight [and close to the body], because when he gets sweepy … it's a lot better swing. When you see him take that long, swoopy swing, that's the one he's got to stay away from because his bat doesn't stay in the zone long enough. The head of the bat does, the body doesn't."
Showalter is quick to point out that Jones has performed in the past despite being banged up.
"The way Adam plays the game, he's going to have some nicks and bangs and bruises along the way," Showalter said. "It's him. I like him just the way he is. And if you try to make him something else, you're going to lose some other things. We all try to mold these guys into perfect [players]. They are who they are, and they're damn good, OK?"
And Jones knew he'd eventually get into a groove, right?
"I don't know nothing," Jones said. "All I know it that hopefully the sun comes up the next day.
"Hey you can't even count on that," he said, referring to the constant rain and cold the Orioles endured through the season's first five weeks. "The sun's there. We might have to fly 40,000 feet to see it."