Chipper Jones gets old feeling back in his knee, at the plate

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Atlanta Braves slugger Chipper Jones(notes) said all he really wanted was to get through a ballgame without his left knee hurting.

And that's what he got in a recent spring training contest — with a little extra.

Jones, who has been recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in August, hit a two-run home run, ran hard and played flawless defense Saturday afternoon in a 6-4 victory against the New York Mets.

Even better, his surgically repaired knee felt great through it all.

"Today was the first day that I had absolutely no pain in my knee whatsoever," Jones said. "That's what I'm most excited about. It felt like today was the first day the knee was as good as it was pre-injury. Now the key is to start stringing some days together where it feels like that."

And the home run, crushed over the fence in right field of Champion Stadium?

"That was just a big cherry on top of a great day," said Jones, who said a stiff breeze helped the ball go. "I'm usually hitting it into the [figurative] fan. I can't remember the last time the wind blew out here. But I knew I got it good enough."

He won the batting title in 2008, but Jones had tossed around the possibility of retirement over the past couple of seasons, in part because he has endured bad luck with injuries of the major and minor kind. He's nearly 39 years old and coming back from the second torn ACL of his career; he blew out the same knee in 1994 in what was supposed to be his rookie season.

And he's not 22 anymore.

But to watch him run the bases, you probably wouldn't realize he is recovering from major knee surgery. Jones, who wore high-top cleats, said his knee did grow fatigued after he ran postgame sprints. But that was expected. During the game, he was fine.

And it was a relief.

"From the standpoint of playing, I felt like I had first-step explosion," Jones said. "I was running as fast and as hard as I could, for a guy my age."

One thing: Though he started a 5-4-3 double play on his only chance at third base, he wasn't really tested on defense. How about a nice, screaming line drive down the line, Larry Wayne?

"No, I like the routine ones," Jones said jokingly. "Nah, it's gonna happen. I'd certainly like to see what the first step is like on defense where you really have to react. One step and a layout."

He appeared to think about it for a moment.

"Be careful what I wish for this early," Jones said.

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