KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Chipper Jones took a long slide into second base to break up a double play and his only thought was that he wanted to be able to get up.
It was Jones’ first time on the field since tearing the ACL in his left knee Aug. 10, an injury that ended his season and many people thought might end his career. But now the 38-year-old is playing strictly as a designated hitter, suiting up for what could be his final year in the major leagues, despite the pain in his left knee.
It was a routine play in the Braves’ 5-4 loss to the New York Mets, but it also sent notice that Jones is going full-throttle in what could be his last season.
“I am trying to take it easy, but once the regular season starts it all comes down to instinct,” Jones said. “I thought it was a nice pretty slide, but it has to get to the point where I am not thinking about it all the time.”
Jones said when he slid into second, he wasn’t thinking at all about the injury. He was out, but he also broke up a double play that would have forced Freddie Freeman at first.
“That was a time when baseball just takes over,” Jones said. “It’s just natural instinct.”
Jones said he felt some discomfort in his restructured knee last week but that it was feeling fine on Sunday. He was 1 for 3 in his return to the lineup but said he didn’t think he needed another at-bat and wasn’t sure when he would play next.
The Braves will host the Houston Astros today.
Jones said he didn’t want to become a player who has to get his knee drained after every game like some veterans with knee injuries. He said he knows it will happen, but he has another year left in his career as he closes in on 2,500 hits. He is 10 away from the milestone.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he isn’t worried about Jones and his knee.
“Chipper has been injured before,” he said. “He broke up a double play and it surprised me the way he went in there. It was a great baseball play and I’m not worried.”
The Braves jumped out to a 4-0 lead, knocking around Mets pitcher Oliver Perez for four runs in two innings. Perez also walked three, but Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t concerned.
“I just told him to go after batters,” Collins said. “Sometimes he tries to be too perfect. It is too early in the spring to do that, so the best thing he can do is to just throw.”
Chris Young started for the Mets and threw two shutout innings. The Mets scored two runs in the sixth inning on a two-run double from Daniel Murphy, and they went ahead, 5-4, in the eighth inning with a three-run homer from Russ Adams off of Scott Proctor.
NOTES: Gonzalez was impressed by Mike Minor and Lopez, who each threw two shutout innings. ... Martin Prado, an All-Star at second base last year who started 42 games at third base after Jones' injury, is making the move to left field this season. Sunday, he made four putouts and had two hits. “Prado is a baseball guy,” Gonzalez said. “He isn’t a flashy player but he looked really good out there.” ... 2B Dan Uggla was 0 for 3 in his Braves debut after coming over from the Marlins during the offseason. ... Bobby Cox was in the stands with his wife, Pam. This is his first spring away from the Braves since 1991.