Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones missed the last home opener of his career Friday night.
After cursing his swollen left knee for two days -- and screaming at both knees as the spent his off day working on them -- he was, in the end, at the mercy of head trainer Jeff Porter, who insisted the knee be drained. The chance was too great, Porter said, that Jones would injure his quad if he played with that much fluid in his knee. That did happen last year, in his right knee and quad.
In Jones's unexpected absence opening night, first baseman Freddie Freeman batted in Jones' three spot; infielder-outfielder Martin Prado started at third base; and outfielder Matt Diaz got the start in left field. Diaz, the Braves' lefty-killer batted sixth, ahead of right-fielder Jason Heyward.
The lineup combination clicked for six runs in the fifth inning of the 10-8 win over the Brewers, although Prado made two outs as the Braves batted around. Center fielder Michael Bourn led off with a triple; Freeman drew a walk; catcher Brian McCann, in cleanup, hit a three-run home run -- he was 4 for 5 on the night -- and Diaz hitting one, too. Heyward, 2 for 4 with a walk, was the only starter hitting over .300 when the day began. Except for Jones who, after two games, was batting .444.
"My knees don't hurt," Jones says. But when they swell up, his range of motion is severely limited, and that's no good.
"There's not a day I get out of bed that I don't twinge something," Jones said, half laughing, when asked how often he feels good. He's had six knee surgeries, three in each knee, one major surgery -- opening him up -- and two arthroscopic procedures each. He's had his knees drained six or eight times; he says that hurts more than getting cortisone shots in them.
Interestingly, he doesn't expect that he'll have to have knee replacement surgery when his playing days are over. Because he won't be playing, he thinks they should be OK.
In playing this final season, Jones was expecting to gauge how he felt every day and inform manager Fredi Gonzalez accordingly. "I did say that," he acknowledged. "I just really didn't want to miss this one."