ATLANTA -- It appears that the demise of Chipper Jones has been greatly exaggerated.
Jones, who finished April with two home runs, six RBIs and a .230 batting average, is showing signs that June could be a very prosperous month.
While his average stood at only .234, heading into Saturday night's game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he had hits in seven of his last 10 games, including four multiple-hit efforts, and had driven in 12 runs in May.
He credits a look at himself and a subtle change to his approach at the plate.
"You'd be surprised how focused you get when you're hitting .220," Jones said prior to Saturday night's game. "I've made some subtle changes in my set-up. I felt like whenever I was swinging I was kind of falling away from home plate. Just a little inward tilt kind of getting my nose down in there has helped left-handed.
"Right-handed, I'm swinging at everything. Everything looks like a strike," he continued. "That usually happens when you're moving forward and drifting -- having to cheat a little bit to get the bat head out. But I'm starting to get some balls to fall in."
A prime example was his second-inning at-bat Friday night against Pirates lefty Zach Duke, when he dunked a soft line drive into right field to give Atlanta a 5-0 lead.
His change of luck coincides with the Braves' change of personnel in the top of the batting order.
"RBI opportunities are coming ever since Bobby [Cox] changed the lineup and moved [Martin] Prado and [Jason] Heyward up ahead of me," he said. "My opportunities with runners in scoring position are going up, [Brian McCann's] are going up, Troy [Glaus'] are going up."
Jones, who is a firm believer that what goes around comes around, is eager to start getting around on some of the pitching that frustrated him early on.
"The game's cyclical. The game's going to come back around to you at some point. You've got to be patient," he said. "I want to continue to take my walks, I want to keep my on-base percentage around .400. If I"m not going to hit for the power that I'm used to hitting for, I want to be as tough an out as possible and try to get on base as much as possible."
Heyward, Prado solidify top of order
ATLANTA -- Following Friday night's 7-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Braves manager Bobby Cox sat in his office and wondered aloud to the throng of reporters what Jason Heyward's on-base percentage was.
Though no one knew off hand -- it was .422, good for second in the National League -- the point was made: Heyward has been an ideal fix in the second spot of the Braves' batting order.
While the 20-year-old rookie prefers to deflect the credit to his teammates, the statistics don't lie. The lefty was hitting .295 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs heading into Saturday's game before hitting his 10th homer in his first at-bat. He's third in the National League in slugging percentage, eighth in walks and sixth in RBIs. Since being moved to the two-hole in the batting lineup on May 14, he's kept up the torrid pace.
In the past eight games, he's batted .393, (11-for-28), and drawn seven walks.
"[Heyward] doesn't surprise me anymore," closer Billy Wagner said. "He's about a 10-year veteran the way he just really carries himself and handles all the attention and the pressure that's put on him. It's great to play with him."
The same can be said for leadoff man Martin Prado, who has taken to his new role as the sparkplug at the top of the batting order.
When Cox tinkered with the batting order before a decisive seven-game homestand, which started May 14, Prado, who had batted primarily in the second spot, was bumped up in the lineup in front of Heyward.
He hasn't looked back. In the 14 games since, he's batted .348 (23-for-66), and leads the NL in hits. Over the Braves' past four games, Prado has three three-hit games.
"For one, he trusts his ability at the plate," Heyward said of Prado. "He works hard with his swing and at being a patient hitter, but he also focuses on not trying to do too much. His swing is right for any situation. It's not a big swing. It's not a long swing. Can he hit the ball out of the ballpark? Sure. But he also hits the ball well opposite field and to left field with authority."
Heyward says that everyone in the lineup is feeding off each other -- especially recently -- and that the Braves have come around offensively. For both Heyward and Prado, who have solidified the top of the batting order, such continued chemistry could lead to recognition beyond just striking fear in opposing pitchers, as both are challenging for spots in the All-Star Game -- Prado is third among second basemen, while Heyward is sixth among outfielders in the balloting.
"Any year that you can be part of something special like [the All-Star Game], it's an honor," Heyward said. "You tip your hat and say, 'Thank you' for being acknowledged. But also I feel like that has something to say about your teammates. You're able to fit right in, and you're able to go out and have a good season. You must be on a pretty good team."
Jurrjens successful in first bullpen session
ATLANTA -- The long, slow rehab process may not be nearly fast enough for Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, but he took a positive step forward Saturday afternoon, completing his first bullpen session.
Jurrjens, who is battling back from a strained left hamstring, threw 30 pitches, fastballs and change-ups.
Braves manager Bobby Cox was pleased to see Jurrjens back on the mound.
"J.J. looked real good in the bullpen," said Cox. "He'll throw at least three or four bullpens and a simulated game. But everything was fine."
The 24-year-old right-hander first hurt the hamstring in the first inning of his April 29 start in St. Louis. He was put on the disabled list May 5, then re-aggravated the injury trying to sprint prior to Atlanta's May 10 game in Milwaukee.
Jurrjens, who was 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA in 2009 and threw a career-high 215 innings, was 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA in five 2010 starts when he was injured.
Ross solid in backup role
ATLANTA -- As Braves starter Tim Hudson puts it, "Normally, your backup catchers, you try not to get them in there."
But sometimes you don't have a choice. When starting catcher Brian McCann suffered a strained right quadriceps against the Marlins on May 26, manager Bobby Cox took precautionary measures and held McCann out of the past three games -- including Saturday night's contest against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The backup catcher would now be needed. Enter David Ross.
In the two games he's played, Ross has gone 4-for-7 at the plate, including two doubles and a single in Friday night's contest against the Pirates. He was equally solid on the defensive side, easily throwing out Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones, who was attempting to steal second base in the second inning.
The Braves catching tandem has proven to complement each other and has drawn compliments from teammates.
"David has a reputation of being a great thrower and calling a great game and he's a really good receiver," Hudson said. "He's really known for that side of his game.
"Brian is kind of a flip side to that," Hudson continued. "He's more known for being one of the best, if not the best, offensive threat from that position. But he still calls a good game and still does a good job back there behind the plate."
So far during the 2010 campaign, Ross has spelled McCann 11 times and in those 11 starts, the 33-year-old has been more than serviceable, knocking in 11 RBIs. Such production isn't lost on his manager.
"If I started him 150 times, I could do the math," Cox joked.
Ross realizes that it's in the team's best interests for McCann to be starting. But, his teammates know that the squad won't miss a beat with him playing.
"With David, we have a lot of confidence in him that at any point [McCann] needs a rest or gets banged up or needs some time off, we can put him back there," Hudson said. "You're not going to get the offense you get from Brian obviously, but [Ross] brings something to the table that most teams can't bring."
And if nothing else, it's always fun to compare the pair's prowess on the basepaths.
"I'd probably have to go with Ross [being faster on the bases] right now," Hudson said while chuckling. "[McCann] is banged up a little bit, and he catches every day."
Result worth the wait for Venters
ATLANTA -- Jonny Venters' pitching line for the ninth inning of Friday night's 7-3 victory over the Pirates is easy to overlook -- one inning, no hits, no runs, zero earned runs, one walk, two strikeouts, four batters faced.
But it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the 25-year-old rookie left-hander worked longer and harder than any Braves reliever Friday night, needing nearly an hour and 15 minutes to retire the side.
It didn't start that way, as he retired Ryan Doumit on a fly ball to center, then jumped ahead of Lastings Milledge, 0-2.
But then Venters got a tough break, as a torrential downpour began. He would throw only one strike over his next five pitches, walking Milledge, then walking into the clubhouse for what would be the start of a 70-minute rain delay.
That was when the real work began.
"I was just trying to stay warm, keep my arm loose a little bit, play catch, put heat back on," said Venters. "I went to the batting cage with [bullpen catcher Alan Butts] and played catch for about 10 minutes, then, sat down, tried to keep warm, keep moving."
Finally, when the rain stopped and the field was completely re-lined and re-surfaced, Venters mowed down Pirates Jeff Clement and Bobby Crosby, whiffing both, needing only eight pitches.
Venters, who lowered his ERA to 0.95, extended his scoreless streak to nine appearances (covering 9 1/3 innings).
It was a long way to go for a GF (Games Finished), Venters' fourth, but he stated it was worth the wait. It marked the end of a long, but rewarding day for Venters, who earlier in the evening learned that good friend and former Gwinnett Braves teammate Todd Redmond had thrown his first career no-hitter.
"I was excited for him," said Venters. "I texted him and told him congratulations."
He added with a laugh, "I waited until after the game."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. Chris Hempson, an associate reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.