Chipper's friends to attend Saturday's game

Chipper's friends to attend Saturday's game

Chipper's friends to attend Saturday's game
ST. PETERSBURG -- Chipper Jones said he would have 100 "mostly friends" in attendance at Tropicana Field on Saturday in what will be his last scheduled series in St. Petersburg.

"It's nice to be able to get back fairly close to my hometown, so some of the people can come down and watch me play," said Jones, who was born in Deland, Fla., about a three-hour drive away from St. Pete, and raised in nearby Pierson. "It's mostly friends, people I grew up with, people I'm still affiliated with -- my bank and stuff down in Deland. So, a lot of people are coming."

Jones is on the board of directors of the athletic department at Stetson University, which is in Deland.

While the future Hall of Famer hasn't played too many games against the Rays, he has been quite successful against them in 20 games -- with a .375 batting average (30-for-80), nine home runs and 15 RBIs coming into play on Friday. In 12 games at Tropicana Field, Jones has five home runs and 11 RBIs in 51 at-bats.

"Of course, I didn't have to face this pitching staff the first few times that I came through," said Jones, who hit .442 with eight homers and 14 RBIs in his first 13 games against the Rays before batting .250 with one home run and one RBI in the past seven contests against Tampa Bay. "I do like the indoor facilities, though, because you don't have the wind, rain, the elements. It's baseball in its truest form, for me. [Tropicana Field] is a good place to hit. The ball carries very well."

Jones entered Friday's contest with a .367 average, two homers and 12 RBIs in 12 games. He started at third and singled in his first at-bat against Rays starter James Shields.

Jones said he would like to play third in all three games, but his manager suggested otherwise because of the playing surface at Tropicana Field. The new type of AstroTurf was installed before the 2011 season and resembles natural grass.

"I think being the [designated hitter] will help him," Fredi Gonzalez said. "I hope his legs will let him play in the field, but I think being the DH will let him save his legs on this surface."

Gonzalez said he anticipates playing Juan Francisco at third on Saturday, but it could always change depending on how Jones feels following Friday's contest. Eric Hinske was the DH in Friday's game. Alex Cobb will be making his first start of the season for the Rays on Saturday after being called up from Triple-A Durham following an injury to Jeff Niemann earlier in the week.

Gonzalez joked that Tampa Bay's starter on Sunday, left-hander David Price, could determine things as well, because of how hard he pitches.

"Price seems to have people always coming up with fatigue issues or sudden injuries here and there before the game starts," Gonzalez said.