Chipper has a hit and takeout slide in first game back

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Some Braves fans (and probably team officials) held their collective breath when Chipper Jones slid into second base to break up a double play in the fourth inning Sunday in his first game since knee surgery.

Not to worry. The 38-year-old third baseman trotted off, stayed in for one more at-bat, and at the end of the day had passed another test in his comeback.

“Couldn’t be happier,” Jones said after going 1-for-3 with a single during a 5-4 loss against the New York Mets. “Just glad to be playing again.”

Serving as designated hitter in the Braves’ Grapefruit League home opener, lined a first-pitch hit to left field off Oliver Perez in his second of three plate appearances before an appreciative crowd of 7,040 at Champion Stadium.

“I thought it was a great day,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Jones’ first game back. “He got three at-bats, ran the bases, got a hit from the right side off a lefty, slid at second breaking up a double play…. [The slide] surprised me.”

Gonzalez said Jones would let him know when he’s ready to play next, at DH or third base. Jones plans to play third base later this week, but first wanted to get some at-bats as a DH. The Braves will use the DH all this week.

Jones got the day’s biggest cheers each time he was introduced.

“You could’ve timed me with a sun dial getting down there,” he joked of his breakup slide. “I was measuring my steps. I was less concerned about the fielder than I was about how I hit the ground and where second base was.

“Once the regular season starts it’ll just be, go after him. Right there it was, don’t blow out [the knee] in the first game back… I was trying to hit the ground without breaking something.”

He’s coming back from his second ACL surgery on his left knee, the previous operation for a spring training injury 17 years ago when he was a rookie.

Jones did only one sliding drill before Sunday, and admitted his knee didn’t feel great afterward. He said Sunday morning that sliding head-first would be easier on the knee, “but if you’ve got to break up a double play, you’ve got to break up a double play. If I don’t get there in time, I’ll be peeling off, though.”

He didn’t peel off when it came time to test it a few hours later. Freddie Freeman hit a one-out grounder to first baseman Ike Davis, who threw to shortstop Ruben Tejada to start a potential double play. Jones broke up the play with a hook slide on his left leg.

Perez walked the next three batters before Shawn Bowman’s two-run single capped a three-run inning for a 4-0 Braves lead.

“Sliding didn’t feel too good, but I suppose it’ll get better as I continue to do it,” Jones said. “I was happy. Honestly, I just wanted to go out and make contact three times, then take it to the house. Unfortunately, didn’t happen the first at-bat [strikeout looking].

“But good at-bat the second at-bat, and I felt good about my third at-bat [broken-bat flyout to right field]. Ball just got in on me a little bit; I made a good pass on it.”

He explained why the knee hurts to slide.

“Sometimes if I’ve been on it for a while, if I’ve been using it, it stiffens up,” he said. “So actually having to tuck that leg under, you know, hurts. Obviously the impact of all your weight coming down on it, hitting the ground, doesn’t feel great either.

“That’s why [Sunday] it was just kind of, I’m going to go down here and I’m going to calculate my steps and I’m just going to get a nice, pretty slide” — he laughed — “and hopefully it works out.”

He said he has to get to the point where he doesn’t think about the knee when he’s playing defense or sliding. Jones had fluid buildup in the knee one day last week, but it was mostly cleared up the following day and he didn’t have to get it drained.

“I just need to get to the point where I’m not Andre Dawson, where I have to drain it every day when I come to the park,” he said, adding that while he’s not had to have his knee drained yet this spring, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on the horizon.”

13 comments Add your comment

SeaAtl

February 27th, 2011
6:01 pm

Nice game for Chipper!

Weaseal

February 27th, 2011
6:07 pm

Welcome back-Chipper it’s been a long winter !!

Steve Martin

February 27th, 2011
6:22 pm

Glad Chipper is back at bat.

justin1

February 27th, 2011
6:24 pm

we’ll see…

Robin Of The Hood

February 27th, 2011
8:12 pm

Hope Chipper can come back successful! Personally Id love to see atleast 135-140games, 135-150hits, 15-20 HR, and a 285 Avg. and some clutch hits…he’s deserved atleast 2 Gold Glove Awards but never won one so his d will be fine once he feels good again…..but as an insurence plan Mike Young would look good penciled in if it didnt cost a top prospect or JJ

Choppinmama

February 27th, 2011
8:25 pm

I see a lot of cringing in our future as we watch ‘ol #10 negotiate the base paths this season.

MariettaDerek

February 28th, 2011
12:58 am

It was just great to see Chip out there! Here’s hoping he gets DOUBLE PITS TO CHESTY with it this year!

Savannah Seer

February 28th, 2011
7:38 am

Guys, I hope the day will soon come when a pro athlete will have artificial knee replacement. It may prolong careers of some, or allow for better quality of life for others. Watching Troy Glaus play last year was painful to watch. We may see more of the same with Chipper this year. Isee a number of Champion Tour PGA players (over 50 group) having this procedure done (Tom Watson, hip; Fred Funk, knee). I know golf isn’t a contact sport, but for them to return to action shows it can be possible. Good luck, Chipper. We may go as far this year as your knees will carry us.

Boston Braves

February 28th, 2011
8:02 am

I think it may be in the Braves interest, to pull Chipper if there is a big enough lead late in games, move Prado to 3rd and put either Mather or Schaffer/McClouth (Who ever is not in the game) in LF to save some wear and tear (ouch) to Hoss.

Bob the Blogger

February 28th, 2011
8:47 am

I’m pulling for Chipper, but I don’t see how he can be ready to go by opening day. Late April seems more realistic for playing defense and aggressively running the bases.

Paul In Richmond

February 28th, 2011
11:37 am

I know he is an icon and all that. And I think, at one time, he was the toughest out in baseball. But consider:

In the last two years this guy has batted 265 and 264. He has a total of 28 home runs for BOTH years combined. He played only 95 games last year with a paltry 46 RBI, and that was when he wasn’t recovering from surgery.

Since 2003 he averages about 122 games per season because he is always hurt (though collecting a $13-$15 million in salary). There is just no reason to believe that he will lead this time in 2011 in any category other than most injured and most headlines about his injuries.

Cranberry

February 28th, 2011
11:42 am

What a wonderful game for our Chipper………will keep praying for his continued success!
We Love U

Joshua

February 28th, 2011
12:53 pm

“I’m pulling for Chipper, but I don’t see how he can be ready to go by opening day. Late April seems more realistic for playing defense and aggressively running the bases.”

Right….and your credentials are more viable that a plethora of Braves team officials and medical staff because…..

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