Hicks on Jones: "He still means a lot to me"

Anthony Santander broke into the majors as a Rule 5 pick in 2017, playing in only 13 games. He appeared in 33 the following season, again making him a brief teammate of Adam Jones. Crossing paths more than settling into a deeper relationship.

Jones was gone by 2019, when Santander hit 20 doubles and 20 home runs to begin his ascension to impact player, but an impression already was made.

It didn't take long. Jones never needed a lot of time to leave an imprint.

The memories come back to Santander with today’s news that the five-time All-Star is returning on Sept. 15, presumably on a one-day contract, to retire as an Oriole.

“As a teammate, great, and his personality, awesome,” Santander said. “Thank God I got an opportunity to get to the big leagues and have him here, learn from him. How he prepared for the game to be able to compete every night. I think he brought a lot here to the Orioles and I was so happy having him as a teammate. I call him ‘The Jefe.’ He was really good with us.”

The clubhouse is lacking in players who were on the roster with Jones. But his reach extended beyond Baltimore.

“He still means a lot to me,” said outfielder Aaron Hicks, who spent three seasons with the Twins and 7 ½ with the Yankees before the Orioles signed him May 30. “He’s one of the guys that I definitely learned from, as far as how to properly play center field, how to go about the game. He’s a huge mentor to me and also a good friend. He always wants his guys to play hard and be themselves. And that’s one of the things I learned from him early in my career, being able to be comfortable with who you are as a player and play your game. I learned that from him at an early stage.”

Kyle Gibson faced Jones while pitching for the Twins. Jones’ four home runs are tied with five other players for most against the veteran.

“He was always fun to compete against because he had a personality that, he would say things to you on the field,” Gibson recalled. “He’d tell you, ‘good pitch,’ tell you, ‘I just missed that one.’ Not everybody has a lot of personality on the field. They might off the field, but not everybody does on the field. And I didn’t know Adam.

“He didn’t have to be so cordial to me on the field and give me compliments or say, ‘Hey, you should have thrown the sinker there. You messed up.’ He didn’t have to do that, especially when I was younger. That made it really cool to have a guy like that.”

Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t see much of Jones while he coached in the National League, but he still formed a favorable impression.

“Obviously, I know what kind of dynamic player he was and how good of a center fielder he was,” Hyde said. “I heard a lot about him when I got here, positive things from the guys who were in the clubhouse from the years past. A lot of guys said a lot of great things about him. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit this past year, the first time I’ve ever met him. Seems like a wonderful guy. I know he’s a big fan of our club, so we appreciate the support. So, it’s a really cool thing that we’re doing. It’s been nice to see him at the ballpark.”

Kyle Bradish is starting Saturday night against the Rockies. Jack Flaherty threw today but remains out of the rotation.

“We’ll see how Jack’s progressing,” Hyde said. “It went really well yesterday, so we’re hoping it can be in the next couple days.”

Hicks said his back is feeling much better. He ran on the field this afternoon.

“He’s progressing well,” Hyde said.

John Means starts tonight with Triple-A Norfolk.

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