Another of the storylines heading into the season involves a player who many have come to love -- gregarious Adam Jones, the Orioles starting center fielder.
The tall outfielder, who has also become a fan favorite so far during his Baltimore tenure has the physical gifts and work ethic to become successful; therefore, a lot is riding on him to take his game to the next level.
Jones -- who batted .270 with nine home runs and 57 RBI's in '08 -- looked like a ten year veteran in the outfield; however, I am still not sold as to what he can do at the plate -- yet -- despite decent numbers in Baltimore.
He struck out 108 times in 477 at-bats, and only walked 23 times, thus it's obvious he must improve upon that. At times, he looked lost at the plate, stumped and had problems (in my opinion) with pitch recognition, but there were times too that you could say "yeah, he's a player".
He's gotten bigger and stronger (a lot of it being muscle) -- his weight has gone from 215 to 225/230 -- thus, he's focused on the task at hand which is to simply improve:
From the Orioles.com: "There were some things I wanted to improve on and needed to improve on, and that's why I busted my tail this offseason," Jones said. "I won't go through the spurts where you get tired and stuff. I told myself I was working out for August. Some say September, but I said August, because that's the hottest month of the year.
"That's the month that kills people. I was just trying to build up my endurance and my strength."
Jones is one of the first starting position players to trickle into camp, along with designated hitter Luke Scott. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley greeted both on Monday and commented about Jones' eventual spot in the lineup.
"I see him as a guy who can probably go two ways," Trembley said, sharing a thought about his lineup way before he has to write one out. "Either hitting in the two-hole like I did some last year or we'll see after I talk to [hitting coach Terry Crowley] whether occasionally he's ready to hit in the middle of the lineup. We'll wait and see."
I don't know if Jones could ever really, really be tabbed as a superstar in the making, but he's got a lot of time to grow and improve his skills. I know that he could probably hit 20 home runs and drive in 70-80 runs a season (he reminds me a lot of Mike Deveraux), but like I said Jones is a bit raw -- still -- and the Orioles being in the position they are in just need to let him play and develop.