ATLANTA -- Nearly eight weeks since undergoing serious reconstructive surgery on his left knee, Chipper Jones is bouncing around the field like a spry rookie.Asked to describe his ongoing recovery, the veteran third baseman said in a word, "Awesome." Asked what it was like to sit in the dugout helplessly and watch his Braves teammates battle it out with the Giants in the National League Division Series, Jones said in a word, "Torture." The best-of-five series resumes Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS with Game 3 at Turner Field -- tied at a game apiece -- and Jones continues to be upbeat.
"I'm swinging the bat, running, riding the bike, I'm doing well," Jones said Friday night in San Francisco. "It's almost eight weeks out and it couldn't be any better. I feel like I could go out there and play right now. The reality is the doctors aren't going to let me do that."Jones, 38, is inactive for the postseason and will not recover in time to play in the NL Championship Series or the World Series, if the Braves are fortunate enough to ascend that far. On Aug. 14, he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament and damaged cartilage in the same knee he had repaired 16 years ago as a rookie. Though the ACL surgery was certainly more invasive back then, recovery time is still six months or more. "It's the second time I've been through it, and there's nothing you can do to speed up the recovery time," Jones said. But next spring, he knows what he's going to do. "If the knee is sound, I'm going to play," Jones said. "If not, I'll take some time to get it ready and see what happens after that." Jones has the luxury of time and will be paid handsomely to continue rehab. He has two years remaining on his current three-year contract and is guaranteed $13 million each for 2011 and '12. Those are the financial numbers accorded a switch-hitter who has compiled possible Hall of Fame stats: 436 homers, 1,491 RBIs, a .306 batting average and a .405 on-base percentage. But he hasn't played in more than 134 games during a single season since 2004. And this year, the injury occurred at Houston when Jones fielded Hunter Pence's grounder near third base. Jones jumped in the air while throwing out Pence at first, but then collapsed to the ground in foul territory. Jones had previously pondered retiring at the conclusion of the season, but changed his mind after sustaining the injury. A career Brave with the longest tenure of any player on the club, this is not the way he wants to go out. "I don't," he said. "I don't want the last memory of me to be laying out behind third base. On top of that, I was playing really well and I was swinging the bat really well. I was healthy and I was running the bases good. My frame of mind was really focused. I just want to keep going." Jones played in every playoff series for the Braves -- 20 of them -- from 1995 to 2005. He was in the starting lineup for three World Series, including Atlanta's '95 victory over the Indians in six games, which was the club's only such title of the Bobby Cox era. Cox, now 69, is retiring as manager -- win or lose -- when this postseason ends. Jones hopes he'll have as a good a rapport with the new manager and will be given some leeway if he's not physically capable of making it back by the spring. Otherwise this October, Jones must be content with simply cheerleading from an unaccustomed seat on the bench. It hasn't been easy. "This is torture," he said. "You look at the game [on Thursday night] and that's a perfect example. It's a 1-0 game. So you think that at some point in the game in four at bats, you're going to do something offensively. If there's a play at third, there's always a question. All these things factor in, especially when you have the capability or making the big play or generating the big hit." On Friday in the 10th inning was another one of those moments. The Giants had the bases loaded with one out in a 4-4 tie with Buster Posey at the plate. Posey grounded a shot to Troy Glaus, who was a one-inning defensive replacement at third base. Glaus could have gone to the plate to force out the possible winning run. He could have stepped on third and thrown across the diamond for the double play. Instead, he threw to second for what turned out to be a more difficult twin killing that ended the inning. Rick Ankiel homered in the top of the 11th to give the Braves a series-tying 5-4 win. Jones said he held his breath as the play evolved. "When [Posey] hit it, I didn't even know [Glaus] was in the game," Jones said. "Then I realized that it was Troy. He made a decent throw and we got the double play. It was fun to see his reaction. He looked like he was about to heave. I know everybody wanted him to take the sure thing and go home, but so many things can go wrong on that home to first double play. In hindsight, I still think he did the right thing." Jones is also doing the right thing. There's nothing wrong with him taking the time to see how his recovery evolves. At his current pace, by Spring Training, Jones should have a real clue whether he's capable of playing again.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.