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.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).