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Jones has good grasp of WBC 2017 expectations

On eve of Team USA opener, O's outfielder talks about having fun, being baseball ambassador
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Heading into his second World Baseball Classic, Adam Jones has a good idea of what to expect for Team USA's first round in Miami.

The competition. The crowds. The expectations on his team.

View Full Game Coverage

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Heading into his second World Baseball Classic, Adam Jones has a good idea of what to expect for Team USA's first round in Miami.

The competition. The crowds. The expectations on his team.

View Full Game Coverage

"We got Colombia [on Friday] night," Jones said, after Team USA's 7-5 exhibition loss to the Red Sox on Thursday. "I expect us to go out there and play this game aggressive and have some fun. Most importantly, have fun, because that's what it is. Baseball is fun. And really we're being able to spread this game, this great game, worldwide, so we're going to do it with a smile.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"It all starts tomorrow. The exhibitions, it's good to get together and play as a unit, to get familiarized with everybody's movements and all that. Tomorrow it all begins for us."

Jones started in center field against the Red Sox, going 0-for-2. In one of Spring Training's anomalies, all the pitchers for both teams were from the Boston organization.

Team USA just recently came together, with players still getting to know each other and their tendencies.

"Most of the players on this team are [darn] good. Superstars in their own rights," Jones said. "I wish we had a lot more time to work out with each other so that we can just get familiar with every movement of everybody, because I ain't trying to get close to [Miami's Giancarlo] Stanton on a fly ball, a ball in the gap. I'm not trying to get nowhere near him, or [Pittsburgh's Andrew] McCutchen. McCutchen's speedy. Obviously, he's very strong. So I'm not trying to get next to anybody. Just being pros and understanding our own capabilities that we can get the job done."

Video: PHI@BAL: Jones talks about World Baseball Classic

Jones has heard the concerns that players might try to "amp up" too early or too quickly. He's not biting.

"We're professionals," he said. "We know how to do it. We'll figure it out. It's not hard, just get yourself ready. We're pros. We all knew about us being on this team in December. I think we individually knew exactly what it takes to get our bodies into shape for right now."

Team USA manager Jim Leyland is still getting to know some of his players, including Jones. Leyland has known the Orioles' center fielder mostly by reputation -- a five-time American League All-Star with four AL Gold Glove Awards and an AL Silver Slugger Award. Since joining Baltimore in 2008, he leads AL outfielders in hits and games played, is second in RBIs and third in home runs, and the only O's outfielder with at least 25 home runs in six consecutive seasons.

Leyland is impressed with what he is getting to see firsthand.

"I've really only known him as an opponent, when he was an opponent and I managed against him," Leyland said. "I'm going to tell you, he has been one of the most impressive guys, as far as he handles himself exactly the way you would expect a professional to play. He is a quiet competitor. He gets after it.

"He comes to beat the other team. I can see that. I can see why he's been so good in Baltimore. Obviously, I knew him enough to say hello and managed against him, but this guy gets after it. He knows what it's all about. He's really impressive."

Jones knows it won't be easy for Team USA. After Colombia, the Americans face the Dominican Republic on Saturday and Canada on Sunday in Miami.

"There's always pressure for the U.S. to win it all," he said. "It's on our soil. So I just think that if we go out there, collectively play our own individual games smart, and at the end of the day unite ourselves, I think we'll do great."

There has been speculation that the game on Saturday could be more of a home game for the Dominican Republic than the Americans.

"I remember last time playing Team Mexico in Arizona," Jones said. "There was 47,000 people, and probably 40,000 Mexicans. The atmosphere was tremendous. So I know tomorrow night's going to be great, Saturday's going to be great and Sunday's going to be terrific also."

If the Americans advance, they will move on to the next round in San Diego -- Jones' hometown. He's already given his friends and family fair warning.

"I told them to buy tickets," he said. "I don't personally know who's going to be there. But we got to get there first."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com.

Baltimore Orioles, Adam Jones