HOUSTON — After hobbling off the field with a knee injury Tuesday night, Chipper Jones thought about his worried parents seated just above the visitor’s dugout at Minute Maid Park.
“I texted my mom right away because I knew she’d be bawling,” said the 38-year-old Braves third baseman, who sent Lynne Jones a text message from the clubhouse.
He let her know he didn’t think the injury was a torn ACL like the one that wiped out his 1994 season, when he was a rookie. It’s the same knee, the left. Twelve hours after he got hurt, Jones reiterated cautious optimism Wednesday.
The preliminary diagnosis was a sprained left knee, but until an MRI exam scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Atlanta, Jones and the Braves won’t know the specifics or severity of the injury. He was not placed on the disabled list.
“I still think it’s not the ACL,” he said, wearing shorts and displaying an unwrapped knee without noticeable swelling. “I hope the MRI proves me right. Obviously if it is an ACL, my season’s probably done. But I’m hoping for the best, hoping that it’s just a sprain of some sort so I can get back.”
Jones The injury comes amid a resurgence by Jones. He has hit .307 with seven homers and a .520 slugging percentage in his past 44 games after hitting .228 with three homers and a .341 slugging percentage in 51 games through June 14.
“I’m swinging the bat great and playing good, and I want to be in there,” he said. “I’m having fun again, and we’re in first place. We’ve already got [second baseman Martin] Prado on the DL. He may come back this weekend, but we don’t need to miss me, too.”
The turnaround in his performance began the same day he addressed reporters after a story broke about his meeting with Braves officials to tell them he was leaning toward retiring after the season — with two years left on his contract.
At that time, Jones was struggling. But he has since worked with his father, Larry, who has served as his personal hitting coach during difficult periods throughout his career.
“You just hope it’s not the rest of the year,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We just hope for the best. It’s all we can hope for. It’s going to be hard if we lose our 3-hole hitter.”
Jones hit .414 with four doubles and three homers in his past eight games.
“I hope we get good news,” said Jair Jurrjens, who was pitching when Jones got hurt. “I hope it’s not severe and we’re going to lose him for the whole season. He’s been hitting the ball really good, and we need his bat in the lineup.”
Jones’ career outlook improved so much recently that he said Wednesday he would consider enduring a lengthy rehab to play again if his injury requires surgery.
He said there was pain in the lower left side of the knee. The leg was stiff when he awoke Wednesday and loosened a little as he moved around during the day. He walked with a limp, but without crutches or any brace.
“There’s some fluid in the joint that I can feel, but that [lack of swelling] is another indication that I don’t think it’s the ACL,” Jones said. “The last time I did it , my knee the next morning was the size of a basketball.”
Braves trainer Jeff Porter tested the knee while Jones lay on the field after the injury. Porter told him that the ACL felt stable.
Rather than have an MRI on Wednesday in Houston, Jones chose to have the exam after the team returned from Houston. He will be examined by Dr. Marvin Royster, the Braves’ assistant orthopedist who did Jones’ ACL reconstruction in 1994.
“I’d feel a lot more comfortable having him check me out, get the MRI, have him look at the MRI pictures and be able to tell me why I have pain in the lower left [part of the knee],” Jones said.
He injured the knee making a splendid play in the sixth inning Tuesday. Jones fielded Hunter Pence’s grounder near the third-base line, planted his left foot, and leaped to make a cross-the-body throw to first base.
Jones said he felt a “distinct pop” in the knee as he jumped, and he crumpled to the ground in pain when he landed.