Braves start Chipper, rest Escobar
Slugger back in lineup; shortstop limited to pinch-hitting
PITTSBURGH -- Chipper Jones returned to the lineup for Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park, but the Braves chose to give Yunel Escobar one more day to rest his strained abdominal muscle.
Jones had missed the previous four games with a bruised left thumb that he has already aggravated multiple times by getting jammed by inside pitches. His absence was magnified by the Braves' losing streak, which reached five games with Saturday afternoon's setback against the Pirates.
When Escobar strained his abdominal muscle while jumping in the on-deck circle before a fifth-inning at-bat on Thursday, the Braves assumed that he would miss three or four games.
Escobar, who is hitting .343, felt like he was strong enough to return to the lineup on Saturday. But using precaution, Braves manager Bobby Cox still chose to limit the 26-year-old shortstop to pinch-hitting duties on Sunday.
While Jones is still concerned that he could aggravate his thumb injury if he's jammed again with an inside fastball, he felt comfortable returning to the lineup on Sunday, when he could at least bat from the right side of the plate against Pirates left-handed starter Zach Duke.
Jones looked good against Duke, reaching on a fielder's choice in the first inning and scoring, and singling in the third inning. He went 1-for-3 with two runs on the day.
Jones has experienced more discomfort while swinging from the left side of the plate, where he's been able to generate little strength with his injured left hand serving as the top hand.
The Braves have lost each of the five games that Jones has missed with the thumb injury that he initially incurred during his final Spring Training at-bat. Dating back to the beginning of last year, they have won just 17 of the 49 games they've played without the veteran third baseman in their starting lineup.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.