MIAMI – Updating the Braves’ leg-contusion duo: catcher Brian McCann returned to the lineup Tuesday, and Chipper Jones hopes to come off the 15-day disabled list and play at the end of the week.
That’s if the veteran third baseman can again convince team decision-makers to let him do it his way and return without any minor-league rehab stint. Manager Fredi Gonzalez would prefer at least a game or two of rehab for Jones, who took batting practice Tuesday for the first time since having May 26 surgery to drain a nasty hematoma on his lower left leg.
“I’m haggling with management right now as to whether I take a rehab assignment of not,” said Jones, who would like to play as soon as Friday against Toronto, the first day he’s eligible to come off the DL. “But the next couple of days will determine that.”
Gonzalez said a decision might be a few days away. He smiled and said, “This is going to be the Gonzalez-Jones soap opera. The last answer I got from him was … he didn’t give me an answer. That’s what my wife usually does to me when she’s not really onboard.” [Laughter.]
McCann missed Sunday’s series finale at Washington after being hit in the left knee by a Jonny Venters fastball Saturday when McCann had signaled for a slider. The Braves were off Monday. McCann said the knee was still sore Tuesday, but that he could squat, move around and do his job.
Jones did not accompany the Braves to Washington for the first leg of the two-city trip, but rejoined them in Florida and doesn’t want to separate from the team again. Not even for a rehab assignment.
He’s scheduled to have his stitches removed Wednesday and said he had no workout restrictions Tuesday, the first time he did baseball activities since the surgery. The hematoma developed around the spot where he was hit by a hard one-hopper off the bat of B.J. Upton on May 18.
A pinch-hit walk on May 23 is Jones’ only game action in more than two weeks. But he has shown in the past that he’s capable of big performances immediately upon returning from the DL, whether or not he goes on a rehab assignment.
He singled and homered in his first two plate appearances after coming off DL April 10 at Houston — 15 days after knee surgery and without going on a rehab assignment.
“I just feel like if I’m healthy enough to go down to play [in the minors], I’m healthy enough to stay here and play,” Jones said. “I’m not trying to help us win a Governor’s Cup [the Triple-A International League trophy]. I’m trying to help us win the National League East. And obviously the more I can be here, the happier I am. And we’ve fared pretty good with me in the lineup, so that’s my goal.”
The Braves are 19-5 with Jones in the starting lineup, and were 10-20 without him before Tuesday.
“You know, like I told him, he’s so important to our lineup,” said Gonzalez, who said he’s not worried about Jones’ timing, but just wants him to build some leg strength by playing a couple of games before he comes off the DL, so he might not need to rest after playing a full game or two when he’s back.