SARASOTA, Fla. – For a few weeks, Adam Jones won’t be around the Orioles.
He’ll leave on Sunday for Phoenix where Team USA will get ready for the World Baseball Classic.
Jones went 0-for-3 in his last game, and he leaves with just one hit in 11 at-bats.
So many of the best U.S. players have turned down the opportunity to play for Team USA. Jones isn’t one of them.
“Get to play for your country,” he said Friday morning. “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.”
Jones reported early, and says he hasn’t made any adjustments to his training regimen.
“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. 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 played my legs in order for this WBC because I know the biggest concern is the health risks, the issues,” Jones said.
“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.”
The number of excellent American players by passing the WBC exceeds the number playing: Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey and Justin Verlander aren’t playing.
The best known Americans playing are Ryan Braun, R.A. Dickey, Joe Mauer Giancarlo Stanton, Mark Teixeira and David Wright.
"On paper, it's a damn good team. You've just got to go out there and play together. 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," Jones said.
Pedro Strop will be on Team Dominican Republic, and it’s something Jones believes will be fun if the U.S. meets the Dominicans.
“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.
In its third incarnation, the WBC has not proven to be terrifically popular with fans.
“We've trained ourselves, especially the starting pitchers, where they're full-strength mid-March rather than early March. And Team Japan, South Korea, they work together. They play with each other 90 percent of their games and they know each other inside and out,” Jones said.
“We have 30 teams and it's a lot of different players from every organization. But at the same time, I think this group should be able to do a lot of good things."
Jones played every game last year, and he said he has an aim. Cal Ripken, watch out.
“I'm going to break Cal's record. I'm going after Cal. Cal is in my sights,” Jones said. 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 doesn’t want Jones to play the full schedule.
“He won’t play 162,” Showalter said. “But don’t hold me to that. I kept trying to get him out of there last year.”
Last year, Showalter had him DH one day, and Jones wasn’t happy with that.
When Jones returns from the WBC, Showalter is planning to rest him for a few days. Jones will want to play.
“We have days off. 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,'" Jones said.