Chipper Jones fielded ground balls yesterday for the first time since undergoing season-ending knee surgery in August and also took 40 swings in the batting cage, telling David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it was “a good first day.”
I’m not going to go out here and try to make the club on the first day. But I didn’t see any problems. Obviously fielding a ground ball is only half of it. Getting your footwork down, getting set and making a throw, is something else, something that puts pressure on the knee. We’ll probably start that in a day or two. It’s just like riding a bike.
Jones noted that he’s “focused on Opening Day” and won’t try to rush things along, likely sitting out the first few exhibition games. He’s shooting for “about 40 at-bats” to be ready at the plate, but how his surgically repaired knee fares in the field will likely be a bigger test, particularly since he suffered the injury while making a play at third base.
New manager Fredi Gonzalez has said that Jones will continue to bat third in the lineup, where 80 percent of his career plate appearances have come. That’s drawn some criticism from Braves fans because of Jones’ declining production, but he hit .307 with a .929 OPS in the second half prior to the injury and even his .806 OPS overall was right around average for No. 3 hitters.
The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.
You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this:
Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.
It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.
Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.