08/02/08 3:58 PM ET
Jones expects to return from DL Friday
League's leading hitter will resume quest for first batting title
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Jones, who has been sidelined with a strained left hamstring since July 23, took batting practice and fielded grounders before Saturday afternoon's game against the Brewers at Turner Field. Encouraged by the results, the Braves third baseman believes he'll be ready to play on Friday, when he becomes eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list.
"I feel great," Jones said. "Everything feels good. I'll be ready by Friday."
When Jones was still hitting .420 on June 10, there was at least slight reason to wonder if he would become the first Major Leaguer since Ted Williams to hit .400 in a season. But since then, he has battled numerous injuries and reached a point where he's no longer a lock to win the National League batting title.
In the 29 games Jones has played dating back to June 12, he has batted .253 and seen his batting average drop down to .369. Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols ranks second in the NL with a .350 batting average and he has maintained this pace throughout much of this season.
During the previous 77 games he'd played entering Saturday, Pujols had batted .349. Also providing some competition for Jones is reigning National League batting champion Matt Holliday, whose .343 batting average has been aided by the fact that he had hit .384 in the 44 previous games he'd played entering Saturday.
Also providing some competition for Jones is the injury bug that has hindered him over the past couple of seasons. During the season's first three months, the only serious ailment he battled was a strained right quadriceps muscle that forced him to be out of the lineup for eight straight games in late June.
But he's admitted hamstring ailments can prove to be lingering problems and he'll have to avoid any more lengthy absences. When he returns to action, Jones will be 122 plate appearances shy of the 502 total that is needed to qualify for a batting title.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.