UPDATE: David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Jones is out of Saturday’s lineup.
8:34 AM: Chipper Jones has exceeded all expectations coming back from left knee surgery, batting .274/.341/.425 with two homers, five doubles and 14 RBI over his first 82 plate appearances. He has appeared in every game this season and even hit a key two-run double in the fourth inning of last night’s win over the Giants.
I’m convinced that Jones is a switch-hitting zombie at this point, but it has all seemed a bit too good to be true considering his recent history with injuries. And according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Jones is currently experiencing some pain in his right knee.
“I’ve got some pain in the lower inside of my knee that is preventing me from pushing off and cutting and stuff like that,” Jones said after Friday night’s 4-1 win over the Giants. “It’s just a really sharp pain. I don’t know why it’s doing it. But it’s been doing it for the past 10 days or so. I don’t know if it was the cold, but it was really pronounced tonight.”
Jones played the entirety of last night’s game, but told Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez that he might not be available to play this afternoon against Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum.
The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.
Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.
His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.
The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.