DUNEDIN, Fla. – Chipper Jones will have arthroscopic knee surgery Monday for torn meniscus, which the Braves third baseman injured Thursday only an hour before a previously planned news conference to announce he’d retire after the 2012 season.
It will be the sixth knee surgery for the future Hall of Famer, who turns 40 next month.
“It’s almost unimaginable, really,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said of the timing of the injury, just prior to the retirement news conference. “It’s a strange coincidence….
“He feels like he can be ready for the [April 13] home opener. We’ll see how it goes after he has surgery.”
The injury is to his left knee and similar to an injury to his right knee last summer, which required arthroscopic surgery and sidelined him 2-1/2 weeks, forcing Jones to miss the All-Star game.
He will start the season on the 15-day disabled list but hopes to return for the home opener against Milwaukee. (Part of a DL stint can be retroactive to spring training.) The Braves begin the season April 5 at New York and play road series against the Mets and Houston Astros before their first home game.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Jones injured his left knee when he slipped while running during pregame stretching Thursday morning, just before his news conference.
He told Gonzalez at that time that he had tweaked his knee, but wasn’t sure how badly. When it still ached Friday, Jones had an MRI that showed the tear, confirmed by Dr. Marvin Royster when he examined Jones on Saturday morning.
Wren said Jones has needed about 16-18 days to recover from two similar arthroscopic knee surgeries.
Gonzalez said Martin Prado would move from left field to play third base while Jones is out. If the Braves don’t acquire another outfielder via trade or free-agent signing, Gonzalez said they could go with a combination of Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz in left field, and also mentioned roster candidates Jordan Parraz, Jose Constanza and Luis Durango.
Even before Jones’ injury, Wren said the Braves had been looking to acquire a player to help in left field when Prado moves to third base to cover for injury-plagued veteran. He said they would continue to search but didn’t indicate any greater sense of urgency due to relatively brief period Jones could miss.
Jones’ surgery will be performed Monday in Atlanta by Royster, who did previous surgeries on the third baseman’s knees including both ACL reconstructions and last summer’s surgery for torn meniscus.
Monday’s surgery will be similar to what Jones had on the other knee in July. He was back in the lineup 2-1/2 weeks after that, then injured his right quadriceps in his first game back and was limited to pinch-hitting for another week.
Gonzalez pointed out Saturday that he was in midseason form when he returned from that surgery.
“Talking to Chipper yesterday, he feels like he can make it back for the home opener, because last time he did it it was 17 days,” Gonzalez said. “But again, he was in midseason form then. Now he hasn’t gotten himself into good shape. So if it’s not 17 [days] maybe it’ll be 25, or a month. Just common sense. Just to make sure he’s ready.”
Jones played in only 10 spring-training games and was 5-for-25 with one double, one RBI and three walks.
He had ACL surgery on his left knee during spring training of his would-be rookie year in 1994, which forced him to sit out the entire season. He had the second season-ending ACL surgery in August 2010.
Jones said two weeks ago that the left knee felt strong while the right knee ached every day from “bone-on-bone” contact resulting from the loss of cartilage (meniscus) that had been worn away.