SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles center fielder Adam Jones stood at his locker this morning wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with “Hulkamania” in red letters across his chest, a nod to former pro wrestling champion Hulk Hogan.
Yes, Jones is a real American.
Need more proof? He’s leaving camp Saturday to join Team USA in Phoenix for the World Baseball Classic.
“Get to play for your country,” he said, describing his excitement at the chance to represent. “I’m going to miss these guys here, but they understand the opportunity that I have and I’m pumped to be able to play for Team USA.
“You see (Pedro) Strop. Strop’s going to be on the Dominican team, and good chance we might see each other in Miami. And hey, it’s going to be prideful, it’s going to be good, but that’s what you want. You want the competition. And I’m not shying away from it.”
Jones said he hasn’t really deviated from his normal spring training routine.
“I’m just going to have to play a little bit longer instead of the five or six innings I normally play down here. Stretch them out to all nine,” he said.
“I just trained my legs a little more. Basically what I did last year. I think the most important thing is to play 162 for Baltimore, but I made sure that I trained my legs in order for this WBC because I know the biggest concern is the health risks, the issues.
“Nobody wants to get hurt doing it because you’re not playing for your team, you’re playing for your country, but I think I’m in good enough shape to go out there and give it all I’ve got.”
Japan has won the first two WBCs, but on paper, Jones believes USA has “a damn good team.”
“You’ve just got to go out there and play together,” he said. “We’re going to have a workout on Monday and we’re going to greet each other and shake each other’s hands, and then get to work.”
Within the industry, the debate continues over whether there is a more opportune time to play these games, instead of interrupting spring training.
“The only better time would be the summer, and by doing that, you’re hindering a lot of teams that have players going, especially here in the states,” Jones said.
“I’m sure the Japanese teams and Korean teams probably don’t care, but here in the states, it’s a little different. I don’t think our owners, by paying us all the money they’re paying us, I don’t think that they would be like, ‘Mid-season? Just leave and go play for Team USA.’ That’s why they have the collegiate guys doing it and the Triple-A guys going. They’re not going to sacrifice their players during the middle of the season. And then after the season, the players will be ready to leave, ready to shut it down.
“There’s no real good time to do it. I think right now is the best time and Team USA is prepared because we’ve used spring training to get prepared. I think guys are prepared and we’re going to have fun.”
No matter how busy he is, Jones will continue to monitor what’s happening back in Orioles camp. He will be gone, but they will not be forgotten.
“I pay attention to the Orioles no matter what,” he said. “Like yesterday. When we’re on the road, I pay attention to all the spring training games. Everything. I’ll definitely make sure I know what’s going on here, but it’s spring training. It’s kind of going to be pretty easy to know what’s going on.”
Jones played all 162 games for the Orioles last season and he intends to do the same in 2013.
“I’m going to break Cal’s record,” he quipped. “I’m going after Cal. Cal is in my sights. Sixteen more years. But that’s my goal.
“If I show up at the ballpark, I’d rather play than sit. I’d rather play than have a day off. That’s just my mentality.”
Manager Buck Showalter has the final say, and he knows it’s in Jones’ best interests to get more rest.
“We have days off,” Jones said. “We have a few scheduled days off during the season, and I take those off and I don’t do anything. If I come to the ballpark and I’m not injured, I pretty much want to play. And days I don’t see my name in the lineup, you can’t veto the manager, but I’d go in his office and say, ‘I want to play. I’d rather play than sit out.’”
For the Pirates:
Starling Marte LF
Chase d’Arnaud SS
Andrew McCutchen CF
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Travis Snider DH
Brad Hawpe RF
Michael McKenry C
Jared Goedert 3B
Ivan DeJesus Jr. 2B
James McDonald RHP
Chris Leroux, Vic Black, Kyle Waldrop, Duke Welker and Mike Zagurksi also are scheduled to pitch for the Pirates.
Mike Wright, Mark Hendrickson and T.J. McFarland will follow Orioles starter Jason Hammel.
The Orioles will take pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton and Daniel McCutchen to Port Charlotte for Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Todd Redmond, Steve Johnson, Dylan Bundy and Adam Russell will pitch Sunday against the Phildelphia Phillies in Sarasota.
The Orioles are off on Monday. Jair Jurrjens will make his third spring start Tuesday, and his second in Dunedin.
Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia is taking his physical today at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.