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Jones early arrival sets good example for younger players

POSTED: February 29, 2008 5:01 a.m.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Chipper Jones doesn’t have to be here. No one would have complained if the former NL MVP didn’t show until Wednesday, when the Atlanta Braves hold their first full-squad workout of spring training.

But Jones reported for camp along with the pitchers and catchers, just as does every season.

"It’s good to be seen down. It sets a good example," the 35-year-old third baseman said Sunday. "If the young guys come in and see me here, they’ll want to be here, too. The more work you do, the better off you’ll be."

Jones said the main reason for reporting early is to keep up his workout routine, which he usually does at Turner Field over the winter. When all the trainers head south, he follows right along.

Also, Jones owns a home in nearby Celebration, so he likes coming down early to get it ready for the rest of his family.

"I have a few days to get situated, get some food in the cupboard," he said. "The kids like being down here for long weekends."

Jones stood up and jiggled his stomach. He admitted spending a little too much time at McDonald’s during the offseason, putting on about 5 pounds he could do without. Then again, it gave him a chance to take a good-natured shot at a former teammate who struggled to keep his weight down.

"This is bordering on Andruw Jones," he quipped, looking down at his stomach.

Eager Gonzo

More than eight months into his comeback from elbow surgery, Mike Gonzalez is ready to take a major step.

The left-handed reliever will begin throwing curves in the next week after being restricted to fastballs up until now.

Gonzalez said he’s feeling good and intends to rejoin the team in June, though the Braves warn that it may take a little longer to make it back.

"I’ve been eager since the day I got here," Gonzalez said.

Injury report, part II

The Braves also are keeping a close eye on starting pitcher Chuck James, who was diagnosed with a partially torn rotator cuff after last season.

While hopeful he can overcome the injury without surgery, James won’t know for sure until he steps on the mound.

That test comes Wednesday.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it," said James, who has 11 wins in each of the last two seasons. "Right now, it’s to the point where it feels good. But how far can I push it?"

James spent the winter rehabbing his left arm, forcing him to give up his usual offseason job installing windows and doors for a home-improvement company.



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