Andrew Stetka: Orioles need to make room in lineup for Adam Jones

Adam Jones hasn’t seen the field for the Orioles since Wednesday in Seattle. Following an off-day Thursday and three straight games on the bench over the weekend against the Rays, the longtime outfielder is expected to return to action tomorrow when the Birds open a three-game series against the Athletics. It was pretty obvious to many when Jones nixed any trade back in July that he wanted to be around to see his contract through in Baltimore. What was unclear, however, was how much playing time he’d see or if he is part of the plans at all going forward.

Jones is playing for his next (and possibly final) contract at 33, which can’t be an easy thing to do. He’s said all the right things while giving away to Cedric Mullins in center field, and in recent days, Joey Rickard in right field. While Mullins is clearly part of the future for the Orioles, Rickard is a 27-year-old who profiles as a fourth outfielder at best. Playing him over Jones doesn’t fit the “getting the young guys some time” narrative whatsoever.

In this season, where the Orioles have already lost 102 games, there isn’t too much that matters down the stretch. That may seem harsh, and it’s not something any of the players or coaches would agree with. But in all honesty, the O’s are playing out the homestretch and looking ahead to the offseason. The results at this point certainly don’t matter. The only thing that does is staying healthy and evaluating for the future. But fans want to see Jones on the field in what could be his final few weeks as a member of the organization. Following some of his recent comments, it seems more and more likely that it really will be his final few weeks with Baltimore.

When asked this weekend about whether or not things were explained to him clearly by the front office, Jones said he doesn’t think “anybody knows” what the message is in terms of the direction of the club. That’s highly concerning for a team that looks like it has nearly reached the end of an historically bad season and doesn’t know what is next. There’s been no real information about the future of Dan Duquette or Buck Showalter. There’s been no sure plan for Jones, or other veterans who may be traded or otherwise released. Jones has made it clear that he can only control certain things, and the team’s future is not one of them. He’s playing out the string (when he’s in the lineup) and doing it with a smile. It’s what has made him such a beloved figure in Baltimore for so many years. It’s part of what will put him into the Orioles Hall of Fame down the road.

Ever since this season took a turn for the worse, fans have been looking for answers as to where the franchise is going and who is going to be steering the ship. At this point, not only do the fans not have the answers to those questions, but I don’t think the players do either. Jones’ comments lead me to believe he’s not part of the future plans, and deep down he may know it. But if that’s the case, the Orioles should at least be letting the fans get a look at him before he leaves. Unless they are evaluating players like Mullins for the future, there should be room in the lineup for Jones. It’s not like he doesn’t have motivation to go out and play. If this really is it, a proper sendoff should be in order over these final handful of weeks.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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