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.
After Sunday’s win against the Angels, the Astros announced that the club is calling up infield prospect Alex Bregman. Danny Worth has been designated for assignment to create room on the roster.
Bregman, 22, is considered the Astros’ best prospect and #18 overall in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. He hit .297/.415/.559 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI with Double-A Corpus Christi before being promoted to Triple-A Fresno. In 18 games with Fresno, Bregman hit .333/.373/.641 with six home runs and 15 RBI.
Bregman doesn’t have an obvious positional opening with the Astros, particularly since the club also signed Yulieski Gourriel. As a result, Bregman played some third base and, recently, left field. So the Astros may have him play at a handful of positions, even giving the middle infield regulars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa a breather every so often.
The Yankees are believed to be close to trading closer Aroldis Chapman, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Saturday. Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported on Sunday that owner Hal Steinbrenner hasn’t given authorization to sell “top guys,” which would include Chapman. The Yankees told other clubs they’re holding onto reliever Andrew Miller.
The Nationals and Indians have been the most aggressive in pursuit of Chapman. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported on Sunday that the Indians “have the best names on the table” for Chapman. ESPN’s Keith Law reported that the Nationals were offering prospects Erick Fedde and Koda Glover along with another unnamed prospect.
The Giants and Cubs have also been reported to have interest in acquiring Chapman. CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic didn’t sense that the Giants are in the “final mix” for Chapman, and the Cubs are more interested in Miller than Chapman, Heyman reported.
Since returning to the Yankees, Chapman has recorded 20 saves in 21 chances with a 2.01 ERA and a 44/8 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Chapman will become eligible for free agency after the season. In the event Chapman is traded, Miller will likely move into the closer’s role with Dellin Betances setting up the eighth inning.
[Content note: The following will contain descriptions of an incident during which Chapman allegedly assaulted his girlfriend.]
Chapman, 28, served a 30-game suspension beginning at the start of the regular season due to an offseason incident during which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired off eight gunshots in his garage. The police didn’t file official charges.