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.