By Jim Pratt
Not expected to return to the Atlanta Braves lineup until the home opener on April 13, Jones was able to convince the coaching staff over the past few days that he was healthy enough for game action.
Chipper, who will play the majority of the season at 40 years old, was activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros after spending the last couple weeks recovering from arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Regardless of whether his early return was due to a quick recovery or the fact the Braves have struggled to a 0-4 start to the season, the return was welcomed not only in the lineup but also defensively at third base. Especially after his newly acquired replacement, Juan Francisco, committed a career-high three errors in Monday’s game.
Chipper made his presence with the glove felt immediately with his classic barehanded pick-up of Jordan Schafer’s first inning bunt for the first out of the game. He later saved a run by taking advantage of a base running mistake by the Astros’ Carlos Lee on a tag play at home.
It was originally thought that he would make at least one minor league rehab assignment, but he eventually decided to forego any such assignment and join the big league club immediately citing his only concern being his timing at the plate.
Any concern was quickly laid to rest when he put the Braves ahead with a two-run bomb in his first at-bat of the season. A career .400 hitter in 39 games at Minute Maid Park, Chipper finished the night 2-4 with 2 RBI while batting sixth in the lineup.
With Chipper leading the way for Atlanta’s first win of the season, it almost goes without saying that manager Fredi Gonzalez was his biggest fan of the night. Gonzalez told reporters after the game, “I’m glad we didn’t make [Jones] go on that rehab assignment. I think today, he won our game single-handedly — home run, base hit and a couple nice plays defensively. I think today he made a statement that Spring Training is too long. I think next year we’ll show up the 20th of March, play 10 games and then say, ‘Go get them.’ But the stuff he does, nobody else can do.” – Via MLB.com
Overshadowed by the return of a future Hall of Famer, rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky hit his first career home run in the fourth inning to extend the Braves’ lead. Eric Hinske later put the finishing touches on the victory scoring Jason Heyward with a pinch-hit single to left field in the eighth inning.
Although starter Tommy Hanson struck out eight batters on the night, he had to work his way out of trouble multiple times, throwing 101 pitches in only five innings of work.
The combo of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel kept the “Stros at bay in the 8th and 9th innings. Venters faced five batters giving up a walk and a hit while striking out three. Kimbrel got himself into some early trouble allowing a single and a walk. He eventually escaped the inning unscathed with the help of a 6-4-3 double play ball and another nice play by Chipper to end the game.
Randall Delgado will make his season debut tonight in the rubber match of the series, while the Braves offense will try to solve their woes versus left-handed pitching as they face the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez.
Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.