Notes: Chipper puts health at forefront
Only statistic on oft-injured Jones' mind is games played
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Since arriving in his native Florida earlier this week for his latest Spring Training experience, Chipper Jones has been battling heavy nasal congestion. It's an ailment he's come to expect every time he ventures south in February.
But as he prepares for the 2008 season, Jones is hoping this will finally be the year in which he's able to avoid one of those disabled-list stints that have become far too common over the past couple of years.
Chasing another National League batting title would be nice and notching a second NL MVP Award exactly nine years after he won his first would certainly be rewarding. But as he prepares for his 15th Major League season, the only statistic Jones is concerning himself with is games played.
"There were a lot of areas that I was proud of last year," said Jones, who was in contention for the batting title until the regular season's final day. "There's only one area I want to be good in this year and that's games played. I've got to stay in the lineup. I've got to be out there every day."
When Jones was in the starting lineup last season, the Braves were 72-60. This equates to a .545 winning percentage, which is just shy of the .549 mark the Phillies compiled while winning the NL East title.
As the Braves attempt to dethrone the Phillies, they will count heavily on Jones, who last year appeared in 134 games -- his highest total since 2004. The Braves third baseman missed nearly six weeks in 2006 with a troubling foot ailment and battled both oblique injuries and leg ailments while playing in just 110 games in 2006.
While going up a size and wearing a size 14 cleat last year, Jones didn't feel the foot discomfort that had plagued him both of the previous two seasons. Now he just has to avoid the bad luck that struck on May 11 last year, when he collided with Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista and injured both hands. Jones went to the disabled list one week later and ended up missing nearly a month.
"I just have to stay away from freak stuff, stuff like what happened last year in Pittsburgh," said Jones, who is among a handful of Braves position players who have reported early to Spring Training. "It kept me from putting up some of the numbers that we know I can."
Dating back to June 26, 2006, Jones ranks first among Major Leaguers with a .350 batting average and a .653 slugging percentage. His .433 on-base percentage ranks third. Still, he has played just 183 games during that span. Consequently, he hasn't compiled the type of power numbers that would have been expected during this successful run.
Even with the time he missed last year, Jones still collected 102 RBIs and scored 108 runs. This marked the first time he surpassed the century mark in RBIs since 2003, when he became just the fourth NL player to hit the mark in eight consecutive seasons.
"Having missed so much time and still getting 100 RBIs and having 100 runs, that says a lot about the guys around me," Jones said. "But to be able to do that was sweet."
Glavine throws: After John Smoltz threw live batting practice for a second consecutive day, Tom Glavine chose to participate in the act for the first time this year. All went well for the 41-year-old left-hander, who is returning to the Braves after spending the past five years with the Mets.
"For the first time throwing live BP and everything, I was pretty happy with it," Glavine said.
Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson chose not to throw live batting practice on Saturday. They're both scheduled to do so again on Sunday. Braves manager Bobby Cox is still raving about the strong showing Hudson had on Friday.
"If you watched him throw yesterday, you'd understand why he didn't throw today," Cox said. "He was impressive."
Other early arrivals: Jones' entry into camp gives the Braves a healthy number of early arrival position players. Others include Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones and Mark Kotsay, who because he is coming back from a back injury is actually allowed to participate in the workouts for pitchers and catchers.
Comical Aussies: As they were sitting at their adjoining lockers on Wednesday, Australian right-handed relievers Phil Stockman and Peter Moylan looked directly across the room and saw the adjoining lockers belonging to Smoltz, Glavine and Jones.
"That's pretty cool," Stockman said. "You've got three Hall of Famers over there and we're just two Aussies trying to get by."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.