Chipper Jones expected to return before home opener

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After seeing Chipper Jones work out this weekend, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has grown confident that the veteran third baseman will join Atlanta’s starting lineup within the next handful of days. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Definitely the home opener [April 12], based on [Friday’s] workout,” Gonzalez told reporters, “And maybe even sooner than that. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days with him. We’re going to ramp him up to get him some extra work. And we’ll see how it goes, how he feels.”

Jones underwent surgery in late March to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and was placed on the disabled list just before Opening Day. Juan Francisco played third in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Mets.

Jones, 39, has already informed the Braves and the media that this will be his final season. The .304/.402/.533 career hitter batted .275/.344/.470 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 126 games last year.

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.