LOS ANGELES – He turns 40 on Tuesday, and Chipper Jones felt his age Monday when he was out of the lineup for the series opener against the Dodgers to rest his sore left knee.
The future Hall of Famer had trouble getting down the first-base line Sunday at Arizona when he grounded into a double play as a pinch-hitter. The soreness lingered Monday, along with some minor fluid buildup after the flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles.
“Yeah, I was struggling yesterday,” said Jones, who had arthroscopic knee surgery March 26, his sixth knee surgery and third on that knee. “I have some pain on the inside joint line that’s causing some problems. I just have days where it’s, you know, it’s not working. Where it’s sore. But I’ve been having pretty consistently right there in the joint line.
“I’ve been getting treatment on it for this last little bit, and yesterday was about as bad as it’s been since I’ve had surgery. As you could tell, I wasn’t getting down the line real good. So give it an extra day to get some treatments.”
Jones started seven of the Braves’ 16 games before Monday and pinch-hit in two others. He had a .276 average with two homers and eight RBIs in 29 at-bats, and hoped to be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game on his birthday.
“It’d be nice [to play on his birthday], but it’s not going to hurt my feelings,” he said. “That’s the good thing about having Juan [Francisco]. He’s provided us some power and some offense, so it’s not a necessity that I be in there. I can take my time when I’m not feeling good. When something’s hurting I can yield and not worry about the offense.”
Francisco, acquired in a trade from Cincinnati on the last weekend of spring training, has filled in ably at third base, with the notable exception of a three-error game at Houston. He had a .286 average with three homers and seven RBI in 28 at-bats before Monday.
The Braves also have the option of playing Martin Prado at third base and Matt Diaz in left field against some left-handers, as they did Monday against Dodgers lefty Chris Capuano.
“It’s going to act up,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Jones’ balky knee. “We talked about it, and I’m good with it. It’s fine. We’ve got people in here to cover it. It’ll be fine. The one thing I want is to keep him off the DL the whole year. Because he’s presence in the clubhouse when he’s on the roster, he’s a presence during the game, and he’s going to have a productive year.”
Jones grew up in Florida as a Dodgers fan, like his dad. So being at Dodger Stadium for his 40th birthday is special. It’s his last scheduled visit to the stadium, as Jones has announced he’s retiring after the season.
“Yeah, I think as much attention as was paid around my household to how the Dodgers were doing, how Dusty and Garvey and Cey and Russell and Lopes and Yeager, all those guys were doing,” he said. “The first thing I did when I woke up to go to school in the morning was turn on the news to see how the Dodgers did the night before.
“So 30 years later, my 40th birthday, and I’m sitting in this clubhouse about ready to play a series here in Los Angeles is really cool.”
He was also asked about being one of the few players of this era to play at age 40.
“It’s cool for me to know that I can still go out and still play at a relatively high level at 40,” he said. “It’s not that big a deal that I’m playing at 40, but it means a lot that I want to be productive. And if I didn’t think I could be productive, I would have hung it up.
“I still go out there and hit in the middle of the lineup, hit for power and, at some point hopefully hit for a better average. But all the things that have gotten me throughout the years, I feel like are still there. Maybe not as consistently as they once were.
“Yeah, being 40 and still playing a kids’ game is pretty cool. But this is it. So don’t get any inklings about 41.”
Pastornicky out for third game
Rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky was out of the lineup for a third consecutive game Monday, but Gonzalez said he would play the next two games against the Dodgers.
Pastornicky, batting .175 with a .214 on-base percentage, has spent extra time working with hitting coaches Greg Walker and assistant Scott Fletcher the past few days.
They are trying to get him back to the approach he had in the minor leagues last season and during the last couple of weeks of spring training. The 22-year-old had no major league experience before starting out this season as the opening day shortstop.
“When you first come up and things are going fast, you can just kind of get all scattered a little bit,” Fletcher said. “We want him to slow down a little bit, settle down and get back to doing what he does. He was just kind of getting all over the place [recently], and so many things going through his mind. It was difficult for him to even absorb anything because things were going so fast.
“He’s trying to get back to being himself. Because a lot of people were saying certain things and we know how that goes because we’ve been there. So we just wanted him to slow down a little bit. He’ll be fine. You just start trying to do a little bit too much, it’s just … sometimes you have meetings and do things and you just kind of get all over the place. It’s a little different – you don’t do as much of that in the minor leagues.”
Gonzalez said Pastornicky would have been back in the lineup Monday, but veteran shortstop Jack Wilson was 10-for-27 with a homer against Capuano. Wilson made his third consecutive start.
“Just kind of getting back to my routine,” Pastornicky said. “I think I got away from what I do well. That’s kind of normal [for a rookie], from what I’ve been told. I’m just trying to get back to what I’m good at, which is going up there and making good, hard contact. It’s one of those things, once something starts going bad other things start to follow. So it’s just getting back to what I do best….
“There’s a tendency to try to jump out there and get the ball, rather than just staying relaxed and doing what I do. Another thing is I think I was overanalyzing it, thinking a little too much instead of just going out there and kind of going with the flow.”