Results tagged ‘ Chipper Jones ’

Odds and ends from an icy week

When Fredi Gonzalez answered the phone Wednesday and informed me that he and Roger McDowell were in the process of shoveling Bobby Cox’s driveway, I figured I had gained a light-hearted tidbit to start a story. 

But when Cox called from his sunny Mexico locale Thursday, he informed me that I didn’t get all of the story.  In fact, I missed what truly was the humorous part. 

When I told Cox that Fredi and Roger had cleaned his driveway, he said, “Yeah, I know.  Did they also tell you that they both fell down and slid all the way to the bottom of the driveway?”

That would have been priceless.  Roger has proven that he has the versatility that most other closers have never possessed.  I mean over the course of the past two decades he has been both the Second Spitter and the Second Luger.  Not many people can ever cough that up when composing their bio.

OK, enough of the winter-related nonsense.  I mean, we don’t even have time to mention that the number of school days missed by our kids here in Atlanta matched the number of wins Kawakami totaled in his final 33 starts with the Braves. 

Speaking of Kawakami, it will be interesting to see if the Braves decide to invite him to Spring Training. 

Julio Teheran, who will most likely be among this year’s non-roster invitees, will be one of the 26 Braves prospects who will gather at Turner Field next week for the club’s first Rookie Development Program.

Teheran, Edward Salcedo, Randall Delgado, Christian Bethancourt, Matt Lipka, Arodys Vizcaino and Tyler Pastornicky are among the most recognizable prospects who have been invited to participate.

They will participate in some on-field activities with Minor League field coordinator Dave Trembley and also learn about some off-field issues, like how to deal with the media and social media. 

When you get a chance, check out the story I wrote about Chipper today.  It’s tough to say somebody looked good when they are in an indoor batting cage in the middle of January.  But as he continued to center Alan Butts’ pitches today, you could see Chipper still has that confidence and swagger. 

It’s amazing how things have changed since June, when he was ready to retire at the end of 2010.  While talking to him today, I would have to say that he genuinely believes that 2012 could be in his future. 

 
 
 

Chipper returns to Turner Field to see injury-ravaged lineup

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So far so good for Chipper Jones.  Now he can only hope that the next six months provided the kind of encouragement he’s gained in the 24 hours that have followed the season-ending surgical procedure that was performed on his left knee Saturday. 

Supported by crutches and displaying a heavily wrapped left leg, Jones returned to Turner Field for Sunday afternoon’s game.  He was planning to wait until Monday to return.  But a rough night of sleep led him to come back to the Ted with the hope of encouraging his teammates and providing himself some sanity.

As he expected Jones feels much better than he did in 1994 when his left ACL was repaired via an intrusive surgical process.  The arthroscopic surgery that he underwent yesterday allowed him to awake Sunday with the hope that he might be able to start riding a stationary bike as soon as Monday.

Jones said the pain pill he took before going to bed Saturday night didn’t knock him out like he’d hoped.  But this wasn’t too surprising.  I’ve got a feeling some of you might have also had trouble sleeping after watching the Braves offense struggle through the first two games of this series.

Without Martin Prado and Jones, this lineup has proven to be rather weak.  It was further weakened Sunday, when Jason Heyward was given a chance to further rest the sore right knee that sidelined him Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Heyward said he expects to be back in the lineup for Monday night’s series finale against the Dodgers. 

As for Prado, he took batting practice again on Sunday and seemed ready to play a rehab game for Triple-A Gwinnett Monday night.  While the All-Star second baseman has been sidelined since July with a fractured right pinky, the Braves have batted .217 and compiled a .302 on-base percentage.

This explains why the Braves are planning for Prado to play just one rehab game.  They are hoping that he’ll be ready to be activated for Tuesday night’s series opener against the Nationals.  

Ugly RISP stat: The Braves have managed to go 11-10 while hitting  just .182 (33-for-181) with runners in scoring position dating back to July 23.   

  

 

Chipper still weighing options about his future

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When I sat down to write this blog, my plan was to take the angle that Chipper Jones will at least attempt to return next season.  But it appears to be too early to make this kind of assumption. 

Jones’ father Larry Jones told the Florida Times-Union, “Those people that are talking about him being done,he ain’t done.”  Those who know Chipper best realize that this isn’t the way he wants to say goodbye to his Hall of Fame-caliber career.  At the same time, I’ll count myself among those of you who believe he deserves a much more fitting goodbye. 

But before committing himself to the grueling six-month rehab process that he would face, Jones will first take time to talk to members of the Braves medical staff this afternoon to gain a better sense of what he is facing. 

Because this is the second time that Jones has torn the ACL in his left knee, it will be more difficult to find the graft needed to fix the ligament.   His left patellar tendon (kneecap) is no longer an option.  It was used to repair the ligament, when he suffered this same injury before the start of the 1994 season.

If they were to use his right patellar tendon, he would enter the 2011 season with two faulty knees and possibly set himself up to endure many more problems during his post-playing days.

Once Jones learns of all of his options and the potential setbacks, he’ll have the opportunity to determine whether it’s in his best interest to attempt to continue playing. 

When he was talking about retirement in June, he said that he would walk away if he felt he was no longer an integral part of the lineup.  Over the past two months, he proved that he still had the capability to be a key ingredient to the Braves success. 

But you can’t blame Jones for wondering whether he’ll be able to return from this surgery and still be able to provide his desired production next year at the age of 39.

chipper-237x300.jpg 

 
What to do: When asked yesterday about how he planned to react to the fact that Chipper Jones won’t be available for the remainder of this season, Braves general manager Frank Wren attempted to soften the blow by pointing out that manager Bobby Cox can now put two All-Stars in his infield on a daily basis. 

“When we get Martin Prado back, it will mean inserting two All-Stars into the lineup, he and Omar Infante,” Wren said.  “I’m not sure we’ll find anything better than that on the marketplace.”

The Marlins are planning to sign Dan Uggla to a multi-year deal.  In other words, if they were to trade him to the Braves, we’d probably soon be seeing Julio Teheran sitting in the same starting rotation as Josh Johnson.

The Braves talked to the Mariners about trading for Chone Figgins before the July 31 trade deadline.  At the time, they were hoping Seattle’s Japanese ownership might be willing to deal their bad contract for the one that has padded Kenshin Kawakami’s bank account. 

With former manager Don Wakamatsu gone, Figgins is happy and proving to be productive at the plate once again.  At the same time, with Kris Medlen done for the rest of the season, the Braves are no longer in a position where they can trade the insurance that Kawakami provides.

There have been rumors linking the Braves to Orioles third baseman Ty Wigginton.  But early indications are that the Braves aren’t going to add an everyday player via trade. 

But with Diory Hernandez and Brandon Hicks now situated to serve as the only backup shortstops, it seems they do have a need to at least find a better option to fill this role that Infante has capably handled since arriving in Atlanta.

While hitting .366 (41-for-112) in the 32 games (24 starts) he’s played dating back to the start of July, Infante has provided further reason to believe he could be a reliable everyday player.  But the sole reason he was given this All-Star status was the fact that his greatest value comes from his ability to be available to play a number of different positions. 

With Prado playing third base and Infante playing second base during the season’s final six weeks, the Braves have reason to believe they would still have a solid infield.  But if either of these guys or Alex Gonzalez suffers an injury, there will be a gaping hole in the lineup.    

Jones says that he has a torn ligament

Chipper Jones has informed some close friends that he will likely miss the remainder of this season with a left knee injury. 

After undergoing an MRI exam in Atlanta this morning, Jones told a friend that he “tore” a ligament in his left knee.  When asked if it was a complete tear, the Braves third baseman revealed that it was “stretched” and that he would likely need surgery. 

Jones injured his knee while completing an acrobatic throw across the diamond during Tuesday night’s win in Houston.  After landing with all of his weight on his left leg, he remained on the ground before painfully limping toward the clubhouse. 

When Jones returned to Minute Maid Park Wednesday, he was optimistic that he hadn’t torn the left ACL like he had just before the start of the 1994 season. 

Jones’ agent B.B. Abbott will fly to Atlanta today to discuss the situation with the 38-year-old third baseman.

If Jones does need surgery, Abbott doesn’t believe he will simply retire without attempting to first rehab the injury. 

Jones indicated in June that he was leaning toward retiring at the end of this season.   But while hitting .307 with seven homers and a .907 OPS in the 44 games that have followed, he has gained reason to believe he could be productive beyond this season.

Jones will not talk retirement again until the end of the year

Chipper Jones has confirmed that he is leaning toward retiring at the conclusion of this season.  But while delivering this information about an hour before Thursday night’s first pitch at Turner Field, the Braves third baseman said that he will not address this issue again until the season is over. 

“I think that we should concentrate on what we need to concentrate on and that’s the fact that this team is in first place and that we’re trying to get into the playoffs” Jones said. “Any more retirement talk will be reserved until the end of the season.  Let’s let Bobby (Cox) have his just do and let him get the attention he deserves.

“Honestly I haven’t made a decision either way.  Let’s face it.  We all know sort of which way I’m leaning.  But I think it’s best that we put this all behind us.  Somehow the cork got taken out and I’m putting it back in right now. I don’t want to hear any more talk about retirement until the end of the season.” 

Before addressing the media, Jones met with Braves president John Schuerholz and other club officials.  They obviously were concerned that the retirement talk surrounding him was an unnecessary distraction for the club. 

Check back on mlb.com and braves.com for more details later.

Jones hoping to move away from distraction soon

Once again, I have been reminded that Greg Maddux just had that way to at least provide the appearance that he was smarter than the average superstar.  

Maddux spent his 11 illustrious seasons in Atlanta and then went elsewhere with the understanding that he would be able to walk away from the game without having to deal with the emotional element that would be present had he played the remainder of his career in Atlanta. 

Tony Gwynn was one of the few legendary sports figures who spent their entire career with one organization and managed to retire without the hard feelings created by some sort of contractual controversy. 

But far too often legendary figures have found themselves saying goodbye to a beloved organization with the hard feelings that Tom Glavine and John Smoltz felt when they realized their playing careers in Atlanta were complete. 

Like Glavine, Ken Griffey Jr. returned to his original organization with the plan to enjoy a memorable goodbye.  But before announcing his retirement last month, the beloved Mariner’s reputation was tarnished by a report that he was sleeping in the clubhouse.

Now as he prepares to walk away from his career, Chipper Jones can only hope that he is able to enjoy the kind of fitting October goodbye that Griffey deserved. 

But given the fact that the Braves and Jones have to determine how to handle the $28 million that he is owed in 2011 and 2012, it’s hard to imagine that both sides are going to come away from these contractual negotiations feeling they got what they deserved. 

While there’s very little reason to believe that Jones will receive every penny that he is owed, he will likely receive a respectable portion with the understanding that he will remained tied to the organization in some manner. 

Whether he’s serving as an occasional hitting instructor and/or serving as some kind of ambassador for the organization,  Jones will be asked to “earn” this money that the Braves agree to provide. 

Jones’ hope that a resolution will be made before the end of this weekend might be a little optimistic.  But at the same time, both sides will want to move away from this issue as quickly as possible with the hope that his impending retirement doesn’t remain a distraction throughout the remainder of the season. 

After last night’s game Jones talked about how he regretted that his teammates have been forced to deal with the distraction that has been present since somebody leaked that he was meeting with Braves officials on Tuesday to discuss his future. 

Jones met with team officials briefly in Minnesota last weekend and set up Tuesday’s more formal meeting.  In a perfect world, these meetings would have remained private. 

But with this being said, as long as the two parties are able to complete their contractual negotiations in a timely manner, this distraction will die soon.  In fact, I think the subject was far less distracting to Jones’ teammates by the time they returned to Turner Field on Wednesday. 

In fact, it might have been best that Jones’ future plans became public now and not in September, when the Braves are attempting to gain a postseason spot. 

There will be plenty of emotions present at Turner Field on Oct. 3, when Jones and Bobby Cox will be scheduled to experience the last regular season game of their storied careers.

But while appreciating the goodbyes, these two would much rather focus on the possibility that they could be spending that final weekend focused on winning a division championship or at least sending the Phillies back to Philadelphia without a postseason berth.    

Jones hopes to publicly discuss his future soon

When Chipper Jones walked around the corner this afternoon, he smiled and gave the customary head nod.  I laughed and said, “I thought you weren’t talking to us today.” 

Jones then proceeded to tell me that he hopes to be able to discuss his future before the end of this homestand.  In other words within the next five days, he’s expected to reveal why he told the Braves on Tuesday that he is leaning toward retiring at the end of this season.  

“I’ll have something to tell you, it’s just not going to be today,” Jones said. “It will hopefully be before the end of this homestand.  But right now, I’m not ready to say anything.”  

After exiting Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with Jones, Bobby Cox had the understanding that he might not be the only Braves legend retiring at the end of this season.   

“The best I can gather is he’s thinking about retiring at the end of this year,” Cox said. “Until he talks to (the media) I really can’t give you a correct or definitive answer.”

Over the next few days, Jones and the Braves are expected to negotiate how much he’ll receive of the $42 million he is owed during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. 

“He’s been thinking about this all spring and through the winter that this would be his last year,” Cox said.  

Cox once again had Jones positioned in the third spot of the lineup for Tuesday night’s series opener against the Rays. 
 
“I think he can still get on base, knock in runs and still be productive,” Cox said. “It’s up to him.  He can really help us.  He’s not too far removed.  He led the league in hitting two years ago and was second the year before.  It’s still there.”     

Resop arrives:  As expected the Braves promoted Chris Resop and sent Jesse Chavez to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday.  But as late as early Monday evening, Resop was still under the impression that he could be traded.

The D-backs showed some interest and the Rangers were interested enough that he gained the impression that he would start for them during Thursday night’s game against the Marlins.

But in the end, the Braves opted to keep the rejuvenated right-hander with the hope that he proves to be as valuable in Atlanta’s rotation as he was in Gwinnett’s rotation this year. 

Time to head out and do some of that house hunting stuff I was supposed to do on what was supposed to be a day off.  Catch up with you in the morning.  

Chipper not ready to publicly discuss his future

Chris Resop’s addition to the Braves roster will take a back seat to whatever we can gather about Chipper Jones’ future today.

Originally, it was thought that Jones would address the media this afternoon to discuss his future. 

But because he thinks it’s premature to definitively talk about potential retirement, he does not plan to publicly discuss the details of the meeting he still plans to have with Frank Wren and Bobby Cox this afternoon. 

Chipper has requested this meeting to inform the club about his current thoughts about his career beyond this season. 

While Jones may not be ready to definitively say he will retire at the end of this season, it appears he is more serious about the possibility than he was when he has discussed it in the past.

When addressing his absence from the lineup on Saturday and Sunday, Jones provided some indication that he has reached a point where he has accepted the fact that he is no longer a necessary component of the Braves lineup.

 “I don’t think anybody in here has any less confidence with those guys in the lineup than they do with me,” Jones said. “I think they’ve proven themselves worthy of stepping in and compensating for my absence.”    <p> 

Jones, 38, has batted .228 with three homers  and 22 RBIs in the 51 games he has played for the Braves this year.  This drop in production combined with his desire to spend more time with his family and get away from the daily responsibilities of the baseball season have moved him closer to making this decision to walk away from the final two years of his contract. 
  
The Braves gave Jones a three-year, $42 million contract extension last year.   But despite the fact that he would still be guaranteed $28 million during 2011 and 2012 seasons, he has said that finances won’t influence his decision.  

According to baseball-reference.com, Jones has made more than $140 million throughout a career that began in 1993.

As mentioned earlier, Resop will be added to the 25-man roster later today.  The Braves still haven’t announced which of their relievers they will be sending to Triple-A Gwinnett.  It will likely be Jesse Chavez.  But the could also demote Craig Kimbrel to give him a chance to pitch on a regular basis. 

To compensate for the lack of outfielders in Gwinnett, the Braves have signed Josh Anderson to a Minor League deal.  Anderson hit .294 with three homers in the 40 games he played for Atlanta in 2008.  The speedy outfielder has spent the past two years within the Tigers and Royals organizations.  

Lipka gives the Braves the speed they need

Surprised that Bryce Bentz fell into their laps, I figured the Braves would take him with the 35th overall selection in this year’s Draft.  But like many other clubs, they found an option more appealing than the East Tennessee State outfielder. 

With Bentz, the Braves would have landed a proven college hitter who possesses some of the power potential they need to integrate into their Minor League system.  With Matt Lipka, they gained an athletic shortstop who possesses speed, an asset that an 18-year-old kid isn’t going to suddenly develop.

Young prospects can mature into a power hitter and correct the mechanics of their swing.  But they aren’t going to suddenly have the kind of top-notch speed that Lipka already possesses.    

A two-time All-State wide receiver in Texas’ Class 4-A system, Lipka will likely eventually become a center fielder.  Clocked at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash, he will be groomed to be the leadoff hitter that the Braves haven’t been able to develop since some 19 or 21-year-old kid named Rafael Furcal arrived in Atlanta in 2000.  

When I asked Lipka about his offensive stats tonight, he asked me if I wanted his football or baseball numbers.  Then when he told me he hit eight triples this year, he made sure to let me know that he attempted to alter his offensive approach this year to help highlight his speed.

For more about Lipka, click here to read some thoughts from him and Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio.

When the Draft starts up again tomorrow at noon on MLB.com, the Braves will have the third pick (53rd overall).  They will have another second-round pick (70th overall) and a third-round pick to give them four of the Draft’s first 101 selections. 

Look for the Braves to continue attempting to stockpile some offensive players with these selections.  But you can bet they’ll also attempt to take advantage of a Draft loaded with right-handed pitchers. 

West Virginia’s Jedd Gyorko is still available and I’m not mentioning his name yet again simply because he’s a fellow native of the Mountain State.  Gyorko is a proven hitter who I’ve heard compared to Boston’s Kevin Youkilis.

Bentz ended up going to the Red Sox with the 36th overall selection. 

During Tuesday’s selections, you’re almost guaranteed to see the selections of some players who will be playing in Atlanta within the next few years.  Brian McCann was the third player (behind Jeff Francoeur and Dan Meyer) selected by the Braves in the 2002 Draft.  And of course Tommy Hanson went in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft, when teams could select prospects and evaluate them over the course of the next year before signing them.

Postgame quotes: After Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss to the D-backs, Bobby Cox said Derek Lowe hadn’t pitched as bad as his line (4 IP, 8H, 7 ER) might indicate.   But at the end of the day, Lowe couldn’t escape the fact that he needed 96 pitches to complete those four innings.

The Braves fell behind 7-1 through four innings and then battled back to cut the deficit to just three runs.  They utilized three ninth-inning walks to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.  But Chad Qualls found his command just in time to get Yunel Escobar to ground into a game-ending double play.  

(Derek Lowe on his outing)

“I’ve pitched a lot worse and given up seven runs.  It started off in the first inning where they hit one ball in the air and ended up scoring two runs.  It was just part of it.  Who knows what happened in the fourth (inning)…It wasn’t good.”

(Cox on Lowe’s outing)

“He’s a sinkerballer that had one of those nights where everything was hit just right, not hard, but we couldn’t make plays for him…He wasn’t hit hard.  A hundred pitches in four innings tells you something. You’ve got to get more strikes.”

(Eric Hinske on the offense)

“We kind of had (Dan) Haren where we wanted.  We had his pitch
count up pretty good.  We just couldn’t keep any runs off the board. 
Sometimes it goes that way.   It was a good team effort to get his
pitch count up and try to get to their bullpen.  But a six-run deficit is
kind of hard to come back from sometimes.  We’ll put it behind us and come
back tomorrow.  It’s just one loss in a four-game set.”

The Braves will send Kris Medlen to the mound on Tuesday night to oppose Edwin Jackson.  If they can at least win two of these final three games in Arizona, they’ll head to Minnesota needing to win two of three to secure a winning road trip. 

But if they return to Atlanta having won just five of 11 games on this long road trip, I don’t think there’s would be any reason to consider this trip to have been a disaster. 

Of course they could win each of these final three games in Arizona and feel even better about the current two-game lead they still hold over the Phillies. 

NOTES: It’s interesting that the Braves haven’t promoted Chris Resop and sent Jesse Chavez to the Minors.  Obviously Resop’s trade value is greater as a starter and you have to wonder if the club is concerned about bringing him to the Majors and potentially seeing that value drop…McCann was removed from Monday night’s game to rest his ailing quad.  He should be back in the lineup on Tuesday night…Chipper Jones also expects to return for the second game of this four-game set. 

      

 

Will June prove to be as memorable as May?

Broadcasters  John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have combined for as many wins as Kenshin Kawakami and Jair Jurrjens.  Projected leadoff hitter Nate McLouth’s batting average has rested above the Mendoza Line for a total of three days since April 10.   The ever-consistent Matt Diaz was healthy long enough to tally six more hits than Tim Hudson has recorded this season.

Still through the first two months of this season no other member of the National League East has proven to be as successful as the suddenly rejuvenated Braves. After vaulting into first place with yesterday’s 9-3 win, Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus spoke with the kind of tempered excitement you would expect from veterans who understand that they will experience a number of different plot twists over the course of the next four months.  

“There will be more low points during the season,” Jones said. “The key will be to limit the length of the downswings a lot better than we did in April.”

There wasn’t any reason for the Braves to be overly-excited about the fact that they moved into the top spot of their division with 111 games remaining.  The Rangers and Brewers led their respective divisions on June 1 last year and ended up at least 10 games back by the time the season concluded.  

But the Braves did have reason to feel good about the fact that they had tangible proof that they have managed to essentially negate what was a horrendous April.  While losing just eight of their 28 games in May, they notched their first 20-win month since August of 2004.  

When I asked Jones if this season reminds him of any of the previous ones he has experienced, he responded with, “dude, I’m old.  I can’t remember what happened yesterday.”

Like the Braves managed to brush off the frustration created during April’s nine-game losing streak, they must quickly move away from yesterday’s excitement and focus on attempting to take advantage of a slumbering Phillies offense over the course of the next two days.

Attempting to maintain their half-game lead, the Braves will send Tim Hudson to the mound tonight to oppose Cole Hamels, who went 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five May starts.   Hudson proved to be a little better, going 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in the six starts he made during the season’s second month.   

When the Braves lost to Hamels on May 9, they fell to 3-7 in games which the opposing team started a left-handed pitchers.   Since then they have won six of the seven games played while opposing a left-handed starter.  

During this successful span that dates back to May 11, Jason Heyward has hit .385 (10-for-26) with a 1.121 OPS against left-handers.   Entering May 10, he had  just .222 (6-for-27) with an .808 OPS against southpaws.

This seems to be further evidence that Heyward has the unique ability to quickly make adjustments and adapt to this Major League level that was supposed to provide him a greater challenge.   
Heyward enters Tuesday ranked second in the National League with a .988 OPS and his 10 homers are just three off Corey Hart’s league-leading total.   

It will be interesting to see where Heyward ranks among NL outfielders when the latest All-Star balloting results are released tomorrow.  The 20-year-old phenom is certainly making a strong case to receive a starting assignment.    

A tale of two schedules:  When looking at the great turnaround the Braves made in May, you can’t overlook the fact that just four of the 23 games they played in April were contested against clubs that currently have a sub .500 record.  

In May, the Braves played 14 of 28 games against clubs that are currently below .500.   Another nine came against teams that currently own a .500 mark.    In other words, they played just five games this past month against clubs with a winning record.  

During their 28-game slate in June, the Braves are scheduled to play 13 games against clubs that currently possess a winning record and another three against a .500 club that is about to add Stephen Strasburg to its starting rotation.   

With Strasburg scheduled to make his Major League debut on June 8 for the Nationals, it appears that he could in line to start at Turner Field during a three-game series that runs from June 28-30.

Freeman update:   Freddie Freeman was scheduled to have his right knee examined via an MRI exam this afternoon in Atlanta.  The highly-regarded prospect tweaked his knee while stretching to grab a throw to first base during the second inning of the no-hitter that Todd Redmond completed for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night.  

Freeman has hit .261 with five homers and a .762 OPS in 43 games with Gwinnett this year.  

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