Chipper returns in pinch-hitting duty

Chipper returns in pinch-hitting duty

Chipper returns in pinch-hitting duty
CINCINNATI -- The daily Chipper Jones Watch took a positive turn Wednesday night as the Braves' third baseman made his first appearance since suffering a severely bruised left calf last Friday at Tampa Bay.

Jones was again out of the starting lineup Wednesday against the Reds at Great American Ballpark, marking his fifth consecutive day on the bench, but he came out of the dugout to pinch-hit for pitcher Tommy Hanson with two outs in the seventh inning of a 2-1 loss. He drew a walk against Cincinnati reliever Jose Arredondo and was promptly removed for pinch-runner Tim Hudson.

"He threw me five splits and I'm sure they told him with a base open to be careful. I got five splits and he threw me one good one and four bad ones," said Jones. "If he leaves one up enough over the outside corner, then I've got a great hole to hit through between short and third, but just didn't get anything."

Juan Francisco has played in place of Jones. Francisco homered in Monday night's series opener to account for Atlanta's lone run, but that's his only hit in the first three games of the series and he's 3-for-19 (.158) on the current road trip.

Jones didn't say when he would be ready to return to the starting lineup.

"I can hit and I can field, but I still can't run," said Jones. "I can't run the bases. I don't have whatever normal range I have. Nobody wants to be out there more than me, but I've got to be smart as to whether I'm helping the team or hurting the team."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves are going to be cautious with putting Jones in too soon. Jones had taken batting practice the last two days and swung with greater force during Wednesday's pregame session.

Gonzalez said Jones has been forthright about whether he could or could not be available to play. Jones has been wearing protective shin guard-style padding around the bruised area and will continue to do so once he returns to play.

"Bubba [head trainer Jeff Porter] told me that if he hits it again, you can expect him on the DL," said Gonzalez.