CINCINNATI – In this week’s series against the Braves, the Reds will pay tribute to Atlanta’s retiring third baseman by using special bases adorned with side panels that bear the message, “Celebrating the career of No. 10 Chipper Jones.”
Jones just hopes his injured leg will heal quickly enough so he might step on those bases during a game or two in the four-game series.
He was out of the lineup for Monday’s series opener, the third start he’s missed since sustaining a severe contusion above the left ankle when hit by a hard one-hopper off the bat of Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton on Friday.
“It’s a little better,” Jones said Monday afternoon, with swelling still apparent from the rise of a tight brown wrap he had around the injury. “I still feel like I’m probably a day or two away. I have a golf-ball sized blister right there that has got to go away. If I were to foul a ball off of that right now, you might as well just dig a hole and bury be right there at home plate. I’m not getting up.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday that he hoped Jones would be ready to play by Monday. However, after seeing the steady but slow progress of the healing and discussing the injury with Braves trainers, Gonzalez said it was important for Jones not to push this one and come back too quickly.
“I’m hopeful by the end of the series here,” Gonzalez said.
Jones said, “It’s still really painful and my range of motion is not good enough to be able to go out there and play defense and run the bases and all that kind of stuff. I’m hopeful that the last game or two of the series I’ll be able to get in there at some point.”
Pinch-hitting duty also wasn’t an option, at least not Monday.
“I mean it’s just not well enough,” Jones said. “You think about it, batting right-handed I expose that to a foul ball off of it. And it’s my push-off foot and leg batting left-handed. It’s just not well enough yet to be able to do those things.”
When Jones does return, he has been instructed to wear a shin guard to protect the area. He said he’d wear one the rest of the season.
Unique tribute from Reds
The long four-game series should at least give him a better chance of getting in a game, perhaps the finale Thursday, after which the Reds are expected to present one of the three special bases to Jones. Another will be sent to the Braves Hall of Fame, and one will go in the Reds Hall of Fame.
“Very cool,” Jones said of the Reds’ gesture. “And it’s unique. Something that I never would have thought of, but it’s awfully nice and very classy of the Reds organization to do that. It’s not expected, but I look forward to getting out there and looking at the bases and hopefully rounding them once or twice. Who knows. We’ll see.”
In 122 games against the Reds, Jones had a .297 career average with 21 home runs, 81 RBIs, a .384 on-base percentage and a .524 slugging percentage. In 20 games at Great American Ball Park, he’s a robust 27-for-81 (.333) with 10 extra-base hits including three homers.
Jones was asked how he’d been treated over the years by Cincinnati fans.
“I remember really only one instance where I was standing in left field here and somebody threw a beer bottle from the upper deck,” he said. “That was a little hairy. But there’s one bad apple in every bunch, and I’m not going to say that one person’s hatred for me ruin how I think about everybody else. These are great fans in Cincinnati.”
He’s been honored with at least a video tribute at every ballpark the Braves have visited where it’s their last scheduled series, including Houston, Los Angeles, Arizona, Colorado, Chicago, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. During Sunday’s series finale against the Rays, he got a standing ovation and came out of the dugout to tip his cap to the crowd as a video tribute played on the scoreboard with a message of honoring one of “Florida’s favorite sons.”
“I really don’t know how to react to what’s going on,” Jones said. “It’s hard for me to put into words. Obviously most places I’ve gone throughout the course of my career I’ve gotten booed. A lot of hate and all that kind of stuff. Like yesterday in Tampa, when I step out of the dugout and see everybody standing and clapping, it’s really shocking. But much appreciated.”