Hinske after Chipper homer: “It can’t be that easy!”

HOUSTON – When Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer in the third inning Tuesday, after going directly from the disabled list into the lineup without a rehab assignment, Braves veteran Eric Hinske went to the top step and shouted to him as Jones rounded the bases, “It can’t be that easy!”

Hinske and teammates were thrilled and so were Jones’ parents. They rose from their seats behind the visiter’s dugout at Minute Maid Park and cheered as their son, two weeks before his 40th birthday and 15 days since his sixth knee surgery, rounded the bases on his 455th home run to give the Braves a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in their first win of the season.

Cameras caught Larry Jones Sr. say “Yeah!” and pump his fist, to the astonishment of Chipper when he saw it later on TV. He said his dad never showed as much emotion publicly throughout Chipper’s career.

“To see them go out of their seat … nice,” said Jones, smiling as he watched the replay again on a clubhouse TV Wednesday afternoon.

A lot of other folks around Braves Nation likely went out of their seats at the same time as Jones hit the biggest homer of the young season for a lineup that was mostly moribund before he rejoined.

The Braves were 0-4 without him and 1-0 with Jones after a 6-4 win over the Houston Astros that evened the series at a game apiece.

“I’m glad we didn’t make him go on that rehab assignment,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, who had asked Jones on Monday if he’d consider going on a three-game rehab assignment this week and join the Braves for Friday’s home opener.

Jones told Gonzalez he didn’t want to do that, and told reporters on Tuesday that a couple of games in the minors would be a waste of time.

Then he put his bat – and glove – where his mouth was.

“I think he won the game for us almost by himself,” Gonzalez said.

After playing all nine innings in his first game in three weeks, Jones was back in the lineup Wednesday. He walked a little gingerly and eased himself on the carpeted clubhouse floor to do something no one could remember seeing him do before in any clubhouse. He began stretching.

Asked how he felt, Jones smiled and said, “I’ve felt better, put it that way. When’s the last time you ever saw me stretching in the clubhouse. I can tell you: You never have seen it.”

There was no easing into game action Tuesday for Jones, who had to react quickly when former Braves center fielder Jordan Schafer bunted the first pitch from Tommy Hanson. Jones pulled off one of the bare-handed pickup-and-throw plays he’s made hundreds of times, executing it flawlessly to throw out Schafer.

“I knew he was going to come at me at some point tonight, but it’s my job to take that element away from guys if the bunt is a big part of their arsenal,” Jones said.

Schafer, who had three hits and stole three bases, chatted with Jones the first time he reached third.

“He said, ‘Man, right out of the gate barehand?’” Jones said, smiling. “I was like, that’s my job, baby. It’s my job to take it away from you. I see you didn’t come back down there the rest of the night.”

Jones had only 25 at-bats in spring training and didn’t play after March 20. He torn meniscus in his left knee on the morning of a previously scheduled news conference to announce he’d retire after the 2012 season, and had arthroscopic surgery March 26.

Other than taking about 15 swings against Braves pitcher Randall Delgado in a Friday workout at New York, Jones didn’t face any live pitching since March 20 before stepping into the batter’s box Tuesday. Batting sixth, he singled off Kyle Weiland in the second inning, then homered off the right-hander in the third inning.

Jones had a .400 career average in 39 games at Minute Maid Park with nine homers, 33 RBI, .474 OBP and 1.222 OPS.

“It was just fun to get back in there, contribute, and try to be somewhat of a calming influence,” he said.

Hanson said he did exactly that.

“He’s there and he’s talking to us too,” Hanson said. “He’s trying to keep us in the game. There’s a lot of stuff you can learn from him. Even me as a pitcher, the stuff he says before the inning and in the dugout, he’s huge for everybody here.”

36 comments Add your comment

Buddy Greene

April 11th, 2012
8:22 pm

hall of famer make it look easy!

Bill

April 11th, 2012
8:44 pm

Its easy if you’re chipper

Simpson's Homer

April 11th, 2012
8:49 pm

Hey — this is nice. NO hostility yet. I’m sure this won’t last long! GO BRAVES!!!!!

StevoDeg

April 11th, 2012
8:50 pm

Sheesh, I’m gonna miss Chipper next year! He’s been the Braves that’s been with the team for my entire life, ever since I started following them. Glad he’s back. Here’s hoping last night lit a spark for the offense!

Bill

April 11th, 2012
8:55 pm

J-hey has a hit and rbi..the kid will be ok. He is getting on base with walks etc..now Bourne got to get hot!

Mikey

April 11th, 2012
9:00 pm

Loving Delgado’s change up!

blazerdawg

April 11th, 2012
9:07 pm

J-Hey 2 for 2!

Simpson's Homer

April 11th, 2012
9:11 pm

Excellent — good 2-strike hitting by Ross and great bunt by Jack Wilson……….!

Bill

April 11th, 2012
9:11 pm

Love it– J-Hey is hitting and running, Uggla is too..and that 2base by Ross is why I said early today that Fredi need to play him more..Thats Braves Baseball!

Mikey

April 11th, 2012
9:14 pm

How nice, no winers on the board tonight.

Bill

April 11th, 2012
9:26 pm

Delgado 5 k’s..kid looks good.

Mikey

April 11th, 2012
9:38 pm

I like his demeanor under pressure as well as his change

MikeY

April 11th, 2012
9:55 pm

Ross should start more games…especially against LHP.

TV says Braves were 28-14 last year in games he started. Of course, he caught a lot of Hudson’s games…

Mikey

April 11th, 2012
9:55 pm

That is just great baseball. Wilson blocked the bag like he owned it!

Mikey

April 11th, 2012
10:43 pm

Heyward is back!

Virginia brave

April 11th, 2012
11:05 pm

Can we lease move Heyward up in the order now?

Virginia brave

April 11th, 2012
11:06 pm

Lease = please

Prado4President

April 11th, 2012
11:24 pm

DOB,
My brother and I met you the other day in Houston. Not sure if we told you, but thanks for all the long hours! As a Braves fan from so far from Atl., it’s great getting on AJC knowing that we’ll have a fresh, new, and insightful article to read every day. Keep up the good work!

David O'Brien

April 12th, 2012
1:25 am

Prado4President: Thanks, man. It was nice meeting you and your bro.

A-Ville Ranger

April 12th, 2012
4:55 am

Van Popple strikes again.

bruce

April 12th, 2012
7:14 am

great story… gotta make the Chipper career highlights DVD, or HOF speech or something

Wrecker

April 12th, 2012
7:35 am

If you didn’t believe in muscle memory before, you should now. He has over 10k plate appearances, so he has probably seen every type of pitch in every location at every speed. For pete’s sake, he has 23 at-bats against Wandy Rodriguez

Fastball

April 12th, 2012
8:13 am

….and I bet Chipper could manage this club as well.

RBrave

April 12th, 2012
8:56 am

A one-legged Chipper is better than anything else out there !

coach joe

April 12th, 2012
9:43 am

As Chipper goers, so goes the team..

Good job Freddie–well coached last night.

TomahawkGuy

April 12th, 2012
9:47 am

There are some really, smart and insightful posts on here…
But they are overshadowed by the mindless, consistently negative and redundant sentiments that are expressed. Baseball is supposed to be a game, an escape. It would be exceedingly boring not to second guess and critique whoever is at the helm of the Braves, but it’s now beyond the pale. I’ll Dave’s responses to the questions and some of the more thoughtful posters, but from now on I’m just reading DOB and not the comments. No doubt there’ll be all sorts of childish references to my writing this, but that only serves to make my point.
GO BRAVES!

bobby

April 12th, 2012
11:16 am

This just shows you how much Chipper means to the Braves. He will be sorely missed even if they had an All-Star third baseman to replace him.

doug

April 12th, 2012
11:34 am

Chipper Jones and Eddie Mathews, how many teams can say they have had two such super star Third Sackers in their History? It has been a treat for me having watch both play as Braves’s, Mathews is my boyhood Hero but Chipper is everything the late great Mathews was.

Thank You Chipper!!

DaStuck

April 12th, 2012
12:06 pm

Well said Tomahak. Where are all the keyboard tough guys that talk about Chipper hamstringing the team with his contract, calling him greedy, calling him the Gimper, etc.? Too small to give the man his due? Put a little hot sauce on that crow, might make it go down a little easier!

Blake

April 12th, 2012
2:15 pm

I told you Chipper didn’t need no rehab assignment…

Blake

April 12th, 2012
2:17 pm

I also said he would get a couple of hits…didn’t know one of them would be a homer…!

GoBravos124

April 12th, 2012
2:37 pm

Now, if only we could have the MLB bend the rules to get Chipper a designated runner, so he won’t get hurt & have better wheels on base at all times. lol He’s so slooowww!!

bostonbravo

April 12th, 2012
4:26 pm

Fredi made Chipper what he is today.

(That’s right, years ago Chipper looked at him & said: “My God, I don’t want to end up like that!”)

Chipper's greatest fan

April 12th, 2012
6:49 pm

What’s sad is next year. We know how this team plays without Chipper and with him. The Braves may want to talk to him about playing one more year. The man makes this a different team by being out there. But no matter what I know what Chip has given to the Braves . I’ve walk just like Chipper with knees that scream at you all day long. And I will never , ever say a bad word about the greatest Atlanta Brave ever!!!

james

April 12th, 2012
7:14 pm

chipper jones is the heart and soul of braves baseball, from the first moment he arrived in 95′, has led the braves. we have been very lucky to have witnessed him playing baseball for the braves. we have seen great braves players over the last 20 years example: tom glavine, john smoltz, greg maddux, david justice, steve avery. anderw jones, but none quite like chipper he has at least on one ocassion has restructured his contract so braves could sign or retain other quality players, he has stayed loyal to the braves organization when he could have left for more money aka yankees and others but always a brave, best third baseman ever.

james

April 12th, 2012
7:14 pm

chipper jones is the heart and soul of braves baseball, from the first moment he arrived in 95′, has led the braves. we have been very lucky to have witnessed him playing baseball for the braves. we have seen great braves players over the last 20 years example: tom glavine, john smoltz, greg maddux, david justice, steve avery. anderw jones, but none quite like chipper he has at least on one ocassion has restructured his contract so braves could sign or retain other quality players, he has stayed loyal to the braves organization when he could have left for more money aka yankees and others but always a brave, best third baseman ever.

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