A month into the season, trying to play on a balky left knee, Chipper Jones has figured out one thing – there’s not going to be a whole lot of planning ahead when it comes to when he plays and when he doesn’t.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had originally suggested Jones rest on Monday, in the final game of the Pirates series, and then play Tuesday and Wednesday against the Phillies’ 1-2 punch of Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, then rest on Thursday.
But Jones woke up feeling good Monday and wanted to play against the Pirates while the feeling lasted. He did, then woke up Tuesday in pain and sat out the game against Hamels.
“I told him if my knee feels good, I want to play,” said Jones, who was back in the lineup Wednesday night against Halladay. “It felt good the last day against Pittsburgh, and it felt really bad (Tuesday). It bounced back, it feels good today, so back in there.”
Gonzalez joked that a text message exchange with Jones has become part of his morning routine.
“Wake up, roll over, give (wife) Pam a kiss, say good morning, go get a cup of coffee,” Gonzalez said. “On the way in about 11, check with Chipper, see how he feels. Obviously you want him in there but if he doesn’t, you feel like with Francisco you’re OK.”
Juan Francisco went 1-for-3 with an RBI in Jones’ place on Tuesday, moving to 4-for-10 against lefties on the season. That gives Gonzalez the comfort level to keep Martin Prado in left field if he chooses, rather than automatically inserting Matt Diaz in left and moving Prado to third against every left-hander.
Entering Wednesday, the Braves were 10-2 when Jones was in the starting lineup, 4-8 when he wasn’t. The uncertainty of not knowing when he’ll play does frustrate Jones, but he’s accepting it more.
“I’m of the mindset to go out there and play every day,” Jones said. “It’s frustrating when we get a little something going, a little continuity on the offensive end, and I can’t stay in there, day in and day out. (But) Juan has done a good job when he’s been asked to play, did a good job last night.”
Jones said he’s hoping the interval between bad days with his surgically-repaired knee continues to grow as the season moves along. He’s four or five days into a new weight-training program he’s doing to strengthen the muscles around his knee in hopes of counter-acting the swelling and joint paint.
“Whenever you get fluid in the joint, the muscles around it shut down, they atrophy,” Jones said. “You’ve got weak knees and Bubba (trainer Jeff Porter) told me I wouldn’t make it to the All-Star break if I didn’t get on some kind of weight program.”