Braves GM saddened by Chipper's injury
Icon out for the year with torn ACL, which will require surgery
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones' worst fear was realized Thursday, when he learned that he will miss the remainder of this season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"Obviously, Chipper was playing a big part in our club," general manager Frank Wren said on Friday. "He was playing really well. It's a big loss for us, because of the presence he gives in the middle of our lineup. But at the same time, if a club can weather it -- we've got a lot of flexibility in our roster."
When he reviewed the results of an MRI exam performed Thursday, Braves orthopedist Dr. Marvin Royster saw a partial tear that stretched out the ligament to the point that it wasn't able to keep the knee stable. Royster repaired the third baseman's torn left ACL before the start of the 1994 season. Jones will undergo reconstructive knee surgery sometime within the next week.
"Obviously, a lot of improvements have been made over the last 16, 17 years since the last time I had it done," Jones said at a news conference from Turner Field on Friday. "So, I'm hoping to have a little bit easier time with the rehab process than I did the last time.
"I believe they're going to do it arthroscopically, which is a huge improvement over the last time. But, I want to try and get this surgery over with so the rehab can start. I know that it's going to be a long process, and it's going to be a painful one, but we're moving along as quickly as we can, and hopefully -- I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I know that some of the questions are going to be, today, regarding the 'R' word and what-not. But I'm going to go through this rehab process just like I was trying to get ready for Spring Training."
If he opts to continue playing beyond this year, the 38-year-old third baseman will need to allow himself six months to fully recover from the surgical process. This timetable would set him up to be ready during the early portion of Spring Training.
"I won't know how I feel until four or five, six months down the road, as to whether I can come back and play at a level that these guys would keep me around [laughing], so we'll just have to wait and see," Jones said.
"I'm going to try my best to rehab it, get it ready for Spring Training, and we'll see how it feels after that."
Since indicating in June that he might retire at the end of this season, Jones has batted .307, compiled a .907 OPS and gained reason to believe he could continue being a productive part of the lineup beyond this year.
"I think it would be wrong of me to make a decision to quit right now. Obviously, I'm pretty distraught about everything that has taken place in the last 48, 72 hours. It was something that really, I think, Dr. Royster will probably able to illustrate to you my shock when he told me, because it just wasn't the same. When I blew it out in 1994, it sounded like the whole stadium could hear it because it felt like my knee exploded. This was, while it was a distinct pop, it wasn't the same feeling."
When Jones made an acrobatic, off-balance throw across the diamond and then landed with his left leg stiff, it appeared he might have torn his ACL. But after painfully limping back to the clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, he was encouraged by the fact that the Braves trainers thought he might have simply suffered a sprain.
There was further encouragement when his knee didn't swell dramatically Wednesday. Thus Jones and the Braves were hoping to hear something different than what was revealed Thursday.
"When we got the news this morning, actually I was pretty shocked," said Wren, who learned of Royster's finding while he was attending Major League Baseball's owners' meetings in Minneapolis.
All-Star second baseman Martin Prado is expected to test his broken right pinky finger by taking batting practice Friday. It will mark the first time he has been cleared for this exercise since he suffered the fracture on July 30.
The Braves, who entered Friday with a two-game lead over the second-place Phillies in the NL East race, are hopeful that Prado could return early next week and when he does, he'll likely become the everyday third baseman. This would set the stage for Omar Infante to continue filling Prado's role as the starting second baseman.
Before denying themselves of the valuable versatility that earned Infante an All-Star selection this year, the Braves will look at some external options.
"We're going to do our very best to try to get through this time, and we're also looking at other options," Wren said on Friday. "I think we'll get together with our scouts and with Bobby [Cox] over the next few days and just look at players who have come through the waiver wire and just players who may be available to see if they're difference-makers for us."
While Prado is capable of providing sound defense at third base, the Braves will soon realize just how significant Jones' presence was in their lineup. His .381 on-base percentage provided numerous RBI opportunities for Troy Glaus and Brian McCann.
Despite the fact that he struggled during most of the 2009 season and during the early portion of this year, Jones was also able to provide solid protection for Jason Heyward, the 21-year-old phenom who may now be asked to take the responsibility of filling the third spot in the lineup.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.