ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The day after taking a hard one-hop grounder off his lower left leg, Chipper Jones’ ugly contusion was even uglier.
The Braves third baseman was out of the lineup Saturday against Tampa Bay and didn’t expect to play again before the four-game Cincinnati series that starts Monday. He had severe swelling and discoloration above his left ankle, where B.J. Upton’s grounder struck him in the third inning of Friday’s 5-3 Braves win.
“It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen — or felt,” said Jones, who by “best” meant nastiest. “It’s not as stiff. We’ve gotten some of the swelling out of the joint, so it’s a little better. But it’s still pretty painful, to have to run, cut or push off, I think it’s going to be a couple of days.”
He hobbled through the Braves clubhouse after Saturday’s 5-2 loss, which dropped the Braves to 6-11 without him in the lineup (they are 19-5 when he’s started).
When he does return, Jones said he would wear a shin guard for the rest of the season.
“If I hit it again, like with a foul ball or something, it’s over,” he said, making a slit-throat sign.
As soon as Jones got to the ballpark, it was obvious he couldn’t play or even pinch-hit Saturday.
“It’s swollen and it’s three or four colors of purple and yellow,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Jones, 40, is retiring after the season and had about 100 friends scheduled to attend Saturday’s game from in and around his hometown of Pierson, Fla. Jones stayed in Friday’s game for four innings after the third-inning injury, but told Gonzalez he needed to come out after the seventh, when the injured area had stiffened.
“It’s safe to say my career in Tampa is over,” Jones said after the game, maintaining his sense of humor in describing the incident. “If you’re standing 85 feet from home plate and somebody hits a rocket at you, you better get a glove on it. I didn’t.”
Jones and Braves trainers were confident there was only a contusion. No X-ray was taken.
“I mean, I would be able to tell if it was broken,” Jones said. “But, my gosh, that really hurt. Really.”
Braves not surprised by Prado resurgence
The guy in front of Martin Prado in the lineup had hit .362 with 11 stolen bases in his past 34 games before Saturday, and the guy behind him had a .313 average with seven homers and 31 RBIs in his past 29 games.
Batting second between Michael Bourn and Freddie Freeman can have its benefits.
Prado hit .345 with 16 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and a .952 on-base-plus slugging percentage in his past 30 games before Saturday, including a homer, a double, a walk and three runs in Friday’s 5-3 win against the Rays. He went 0-for-3 Saturday to snap a 10-game hitting streak.
“For me, having a guy who can steal 70 bags in front of me, pitchers are going to be more aware when he’s on base and they’re going to forget about me,” Prado said. “I don’t think I’m going to see more fastballs – it hasn’t been the case so far. But they take a little bit off, like, ‘Let me worry about Mike. I’ll just make some pitches against Martin.’
“I feel like with Mike at first they’re going to throw to first a lot, and when they throw to home plate they just go [short] step. Pitchers say, ‘Let me battle against Mike and Freeman, it’s just Prado.’ If they think like that, it’s awesome for me.”
Prado is having the resurgent season the Braves hoped for from the 2010 All-Star. He has a .318 average, .393 OBP and .883 OPS in 39 games, after hitting .260 with a .302 OBP (career lows) and .687 OPS in 2011 and missing six weeks with staph infection in his legs.
“People were questioning if he could bounce back with a good year after what I think we all, and he, would consider a subpar year,” Jones said. “But Martin Prado is not a .260 hitter, and I knew from Day 1 he was going to come out and re-establish himself as a force.”
In his 10-game streak through Friday, Prado was 20-for-42 (.476) with a .521 on-base percentage. Bourn led the NL with 57 hits before Saturday, and Prado was seventh with 48.
“When Bourn gets on base, a pitcher has to worry about him stealing,” catcher Brian McCann said. “He’s a game-changer.”
“People who know baseball, people who watch baseball on a consistent basis, if you don’t think Martin Prado is a star in this league, in my opinion you’re not watching the right things,” McCann said. “The guy is everything you could possibly want in a baseball player. Last year he got a staph infection and was out for seven weeks. That’s not easy to do. That’s seven weeks not seeing pitches, then coming back and everyone’s expecting him to hit .320 or .330. It’s hard to do that.”