NEW YORK — Chipper Jones will test his surgically repaired knee against live pitching on Friday when the Braves have an optional workout at Citi Field on a day off before the second game of the season Saturday.
Jones will face Braves No. 5 starting pitcher Randall Delgado and newly signed reliever Chad Durbin.
The veteran third baseman is recovering from March 26 arthroscopic knee surgery and is eligible to come off 15-day disabled list Tuesday. Jones said as of Thursday, the knee still felt heavy and he wouldn’t have been ready to come off the DL yet if he were eligible. But by Tuesday, he’s hopeful that will change and that he’ll be ready.
If not, his target remains the April 13 home opener against Milwaukee. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said it’s possible that Jones would be sent out to get some at-bats in a minor league game before he’s activated, but Jones made it clear he’d prefer to stay with the team and get his at-bats in simulated game conditions like the ones he’ll see Friday.
The manager said ultimately that if Jones comes in and says he’s ready to return, he wouldn’t say no to the 19-year veteran. “He knows his body better than anyone,” Gonzalez said.
Francisco at third Saturday
Juan Francisco’s Braves debut will be Saturday when he starts at third base against the Mets and right-hander R.A. Dickey. The Braves got Francisco from the Cincinnati Reds in a trade Sunday for pitching prospect J.J. Hoover.
Gonzalez went with Martin Prado at third base and Matt Diaz in left field on Thursday because Diaz had a .500 career average in 32 at-bats against Mets lefty Johan Santana. Diaz doubled off Santana – one of only two hits he allowed – to move to 17-for-34 lifetime against him.
Prado will move to left field and Francisco to third on Saturday, and Gonzalez plans to use that arrangement against right-handers and also play Francisco against some lefties to see what he can do against them.
Against right-handers last season in Triple-A, Francisco hit .343 (72-for-210) with 30 extra-base hits (10 homers), .370 on-base percentage and .956 OPS, while against lefties he hit .269 (29-for-108) with six homers, three walks, .298 OBP and .798 OPS.
In limited major league opportunities over three seasons, Francisco hit .284 with 11 doubles, one triple, five homers and 29 RBI in 169 at-bats, only 26 of which came against lefties.
Delgado decision pending
No. 5 starter Delgado’s season debut might not come until the sixth game of the season at Houston on Wednesday, if the Braves decide to bring back Tommy Hanson on regular rest to start Tuesday in the fifth game.
Gonzalez said before Thursday’s season opener that Hanson would probably be brought back on regular rest if he only threw about 85 pitches against the Mets. He threw 83 and left without recording an out in the sixth inning.
Santana’s Braves thing, cont.
Johan Santana did what he usually does against the Braves – pitch good to great and get no win. He got no decision while allowing just two hits and two walks with five strikeouts in five inning, lowering his ERA to 2.14 in 13 career starts against the Braves.
He’s just 3-6 in those games and his teams have scored two or fewer runs while he was in 12 of the 13 games.
The Braves have more losses in their past 17 games against the Mets than they had in the previous 34. After going 25-9 in 34 games against the Mets from May 13, 2009 through April 16, 2011, the Braves have gone 7-10 in their past 17 games against them…. Dan Uggla struck out in both of his at-bats against Santana to make him 1-for-21 with 12 strikeouts in his career against the lefty. The Mets wore No. 8 “Carter” Jerseys during batting practice to honor former Mets catcher Gary Carter, who tied of brain cancer Feb. 16 at age 57.