Rehabbing Brave Chipper has spring in step thus far
Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011 3:24 pm
By: By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Chipper Jones showed earlier this week he can still knock the cover off the ball.
Now for the next step in his recovery from knee surgery.
Jones, the Braves’ switch-hitting third baseman, took a big left-handed swing and ripped the cover from a ball in batting practice on Tuesday morning.
As Braves president John Schuerholz held the empty cover in the Turner Field batting cage, the 38-year-old Jones told him “that’s what you’ve got to look forward to.”
One step at a time. Jones has been hitting since December but the six-time All-Star has not taken ground balls or run the bases.
Jones plans to begin agility drills this week to pave the way for his return to the field in spring training.
“I’m resigned to not doing any of the fielding stuff until I get down to Florida, which is probably in my best interests,” he said.
Jones can report with pitchers and catchers on Feb. 14 because he finished the season on the disabled list.
He said he has added motivation to be ready for spring training.
“I don’t want to miss a day of work in spring training because I have a limited time to prove to everybody else — and myself — that I can go out there and play and be the opening day third baseman,” Jones said.
This will be Jones’ first season without manager Bobby Cox, who retired last year after the Braves’ division series loss to the Giants.
New manager Fred Gonzalez said he has tinkered with several possible lineups.
He said every combination includes Jones playing third base and hitting third.
“I have not made a lineup with No. 10 not in it,” Gonzalez said. “That’s how confident I am that he’s going to be with us.”
Gonzalez said he will let Jones set his pace in spring training.
“I’ve seen him hit a lot. The only thing is, and I’ve spoken to him about it, how that knee’s going to react in spring training, on the field and running the bases,” Gonzalez said. “And not only that, but the competitiveness. His nature, when he wants to do something.
“We’re leaving it a lot to him. He may come in and say, ‘I don’t want to take ground balls today.’ And that’s fine.”
Jones, the 1999 National League MVP, said he is working through tendinitis in the left knee.
He said treatment has helped pain caused by the tendinitis, which he said is a normal part of the recovery from his surgery in August.
“The bottom line is that I’ve got to get to the point where I don’t mentally think about the knee,” he said. “And as long as I don’t have any pain down there, I won’t think about it. That’s why I’m excited about coming down here and getting treatment and getting that tendinitis out of there.
“It’s starting to get to the point where I have no limits. Starting to get there. Not quite.”
Jones is an expert on his rehab. He also tore his anterior cruciate ligament before the 1994 season. He returned to start as a rookie on the Braves’ 1995 World Series title team.
Jones won the NL batting title in 2008 before suffering a dramatic decline as his average fell 100 points to .264 in 2009. He spoke of retirement when his average continued to fall early last season, but he rallied to hit .400 with three homers in May before the season-ending injury.
He finished last season hitting .265 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs.
Jones already holds an impressive standing among baseball’s best switch-hitters.
He has a .306 career batting average with 436 homers, third on the career list for switch-hitters behind Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504). No other switch-hitter has a .300 batting average and at least 300 career homers.
AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd contributed to this report.