Orioles center fielder Adam Jones holds up the ball after making… (Seattle Times photo )
SEATTLE — Always one to tell you exactly how he feels, center fielder Adam Jones put his modesty aside when he discussed his leaping catch of Miguel Olivo's drive in the fourth inning of the Orioles' 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.
Asked whether the catch against the center-field wall should be the top "Web Gem" on "Baseball Tonight," ESPN's nightly look at the day's best defensive plays, Jones said: "It should be. There's always some good plays, but that's going to be hard for them to top."
Olivo crushed Brian Matusz's pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark. It was hit so well that the Orioles starter had initially not even bothered to watch and instead was looking for plate umpire Bill Miller to throw him another ball.
However, Jones, not breaking stride, never gave up on the ball. He made a leaping basket catch with his back to home plate as he slammed in the wall. Jones' feet landed about halfway up the wall, which were adorned with his cleat indentations to prove it. It wasn't exactly Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, but on this day, it — coupled with Jones' tiebreaking home run off Jamey Wright in the top of the eighth inning — was exactly what the Orioles needed.
"Pretty simple, the ball was crushed. I ran as far as I could. I had quite a distance to go," said Jones, the former Mariner who won a Gold Glove with the Orioles after the 2009 season. "I just saw the replay a couple minutes ago. I work on catching the ball behind my head, from different angles, because in [batting practice], it's so easy to catch the ball normal. That was perfect. Just ran and ran, and caught the ball. It's something that's really hard to replay in my mind. I remember doing it, but it's hard to put into words. It was a pretty cool play."
The play conjured memories of another center fielder who used to make highlight-reel catches in these parts.
"He looked like [Ken Griffey Jr.] with the play against the wall there," said Orioles closer Kevin Gregg, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his ninth save of the season. "Just a tremendous outfielder. I love it when they hit the ball to him."
After being the talk of spring training with his 10 Grapefruit League home runs, Jake Fox found both hits and at-bats hard to come by when the season began. With the Orioles needing a roster spot with Matusz's activation from the disabled list, they designated Fox for assignment.
They have 10 days to trade the 28-year-old, reassign him to the minor leagues or give him his outright release.
"You see it coming. This isn't the first time I've been through it. I went through it last year," said Fox, who batted .188 (9-for-48) with two homers and four RBIs in 19 games for the Orioles. "[Showalter] … didn't feel like I was a good fit here, and it's disappointing because I felt like I was a good fit here. I enjoyed it here, I liked the guys, I liked the team. It's the same thing I went through last year with Oakland, where there just weren't enough at bats for me. Everybody thinks I'm good enough to play for somebody else, just not for them. I feel like I'm kind of in the in-between stage. It's been difficult."
Fox started just 12 of the Orioles' 53 games this season, six at catcher, two at first base and four in left field. However, his struggles against left-handed pitching — he was just 3-for-28 this season — and Derrek Lee's imminent return convinced the Orioles that they weren't going to be able to get Fox enough at-bats to justify keeping him on the roster.
"It obviously would have been a better fit statistically at this level if he would have handled left-handed pitching better," Showalter said. "It really wasn't giving us the advantage against left-handed pitching, not to say that somewhere down the line, he wouldn't be able to do it. His minor league track record shows that that he should be. But who knows. We have 10 days whether we could trade him or not trade him, and if not, he still has a chance to be playing for us in [Triple-A] Norfolk during this period at some point when it's over. The way I understand it, he doesn't have enough service time to refuse assignments. Either he's traded or goes down to Norfolk, I believe."
However, Fox is looking for a clean break and to go to an organization with which he could get steady at-bats.
"I'm not ready to do that [go the minors] because I still feel like I can play every day at this level, and unfortunately, this organization thinks I can't," Fox said. "But I'm not going to believe it until it's proven to me that I can't play. So, hopefully, I will go someplace that will give me a chance to play."
Lee's grandfather dies
Showalter announced before the game that Lee would start what could be a brief rehabilitation assignment Thursday night for Double-A Bowie. However, after the Orioles' victory, he learned that Lee's grandfather had died, which should delay his return by a couple of days.