OAKLAND, Calif. — When Orioles center fielder Adam Jones came off the Oakland Coliseum field after the bottom of second inning Thursday, he threw his glove dejectedly into the dugout and then made a pronouncement: "I'm going to pick us up. I got it."
A few batters later, Jones doubled to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead in a game in which they won 10-2.
It was important for Jones, who was hitting .359 heading into Friday, to come up big with the bat. Because the two-time Gold Glove outfielder has been uncharacteristically shaky in the field since the season started.
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"I just know I have to get better. And I will. It is a long season. But it starts today," Jones said Friday. "Because the mistakes I have made I have never done before. And they are costly. It's not like they are leading to extra bases. They are leading to runs. Our pitchers are out there busting their tails and I am the last line of defense and I can't let them down."
Thursday, with two outs and two on in the second, Oakland's Josh Donaldson hit a hard liner to center. Jones didn't move back initially, then he began running toward the fence as the ball bounced off his glove for what was ruled a two-run double. It clearly was an error.
"I just froze. I can think of a billion excuses as to something, but I really can't," he said. "The rest of the game after that I was like, 'Please hit me this ball. Hit me this ball. I need this ball hit to me.'"
Jones has been charged with just one error this season — when he dropped a fly ball in the seventh inning April 12 in Yankee Stadium that allowed three runners to score and basically led to the Orioles' 5-2 loss.
But he also has made several mistakes not scored errors that should be routine for someone with his reputation. He's lost a ball in the sun, had another bounce off his glove and over-ran another.
"In certain instances, like when a ground ball is hit and you're trying to throw somebody out and the ball kicks off your glove, those are [aggressive] mistakes," he said. "[But] when the ball is hit and there are guys on base and it is on your shoulders, you've got to make the catch. It is as a simple as that."
Buck Showalter said he knew how upset Jones was Thursday, and the Orioles manager was impressed with how Jones turned things around to help the team win.
"Jonesy was frustrated early on and came back and had a big night for us," Showalter said. "That ball was spinning back, but he's not going to make any excuses. It's not easy. It's just that he has spoiled us with such a high level of play."
Orioles outfield coach Wayne Kirby said Jones' mistake Thursday was a simple one.
"He is just flat-footed right now," Kirby said. "When you are flat-footed, the ball jumps on you. When you get ready and you aren't getting ready on the balls of your feet, then the balls of your feet don't work. When you are flat-footed, then you're starting from a dead standstill instead of a push-off position. That's basically all it was."
Kirby said most of the trouble Jones has had so far this season is easily fixable. He's making minor fundamental mistakes such as bringing his glove up too quickly while running for a ball. The coach, who has worked with Jones for three seasons, said he believes the center fielder's absence for three weeks during spring training to play in the World Baseball Classic has contributed to the defensive malaise, because Jones didn't drill on the fundamentals like he normally does.
"All that hard work in spring training, he missed a good portion of that and we find ourselves still catching up with that," Kirby said. "Even though he is one of the best outfielders in the game, he still has to fine-tune certain things."
Kirby believes that each mistake Jones has made this year has been rectified with discussion and instruction.
"Me and Adam got a great relationship, and he is going to listen. He is going to polish it up or clean it up, whatever he said. But it's not that much polishing up," Kirby said. "It's not being lazy or not working. It's technical. Anybody can get a glitch on the screen."
Kirby expects Jones to soon be back making great — and routine — plays.
"That's' the last missed ball you are going to see. I know it," Kirby said. "That's the last one you're gonna see for a long time."
For his part, Jones said he'll probably take more shagging practice during live batting practice so he can continue to work on gauging balls off the bat. Ultimately — despite criticism from fans and less-than-stellar defensive metrics — Jones believes he is a Gold Glove center fielder and will continue to be one. He's not going anywhere, he said.
"Defensively, you've got to bring it every day, and that's one thing I am known for: Bringing it every day. And I've got to clean it up," he said. "And, don't worry, I am staying in center field. I ain't moving from center field. I'm going to be out there every single night, so it is up to me to make that effort even more and get better because I need to really clean it up. The team relies on me to play center field."