Still, the Orioles don't see much point in coddling their investment. If there was a temptation to send Jones to Triple-A Norfolk for a refresher course to begin the season, he squashed it by hitting .324 in his first 13 Grapefruit League games. With Jones in center field and Markakis coming off a 23-homer, 112-RBI season in right, Baltimore has two nice building blocks for the next several years.
"From a purely analytical standpoint, Adam has accomplished everything you can accomplish in the minor leagues," MacPhail said. "He's been to Triple-A — been there and done that. Eventually he's going to have to get exposed to major league pitching day in and day out."
Jones has already gone to school on Baltimore's baseball tradition and the city's passion for sports. Shortly after the trade, he spoke with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who shared the same agent. In a standard rite of passage for hot young prospects, Jones recently switched agents and is now represented by Casey Close and Greg Landry of Creative Artists Agency, the same group that represents Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard.
He's ambitious in his baseball goals. Ask Jones what he wants from the game, and he quickly ticks off his objectives -- a long career, financial security for him and his family, respect from his peers and at least a couple of championship rings.
"I'm not trying to be a savior," Jones said. "I'm not trying to come in here and hit 80 home runs. I'm here to play hard and show some excitement and use all the tools I have. I have them for a reason."
As Shelby observes, "the sky is the limit" over the next 10-15 years. As of today, Jones is a walking symbol for hope in Baltimore. That's something the Orioles haven't had a whole lot of lately.
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.