Braves Notebook: Jones looks to carry weight
Underlying the trade rumors involving versatile infielder-outfielder Martin Prado is the future of third baseman Chipper Jones, who will turn 40 in April.
Jones has been a star since the moment he was drafted by the Braves, but his extremely high baseball IQ is rarely mentioned. And it isn't only hitting he knows inside out, but fielding and base-running as well. More than anything, however, he knows his body.
So he knew, for example, that he could grit his teeth and play with torn a right meniscus while Prado was out of the lineup because of a staph infection last season.
Jones, who could barely pull his socks up during this period, hung in there until the All-Star break, when he knew Prado would be returning, before he underwent surgery to repair the tear.
The knee was really sore when he first started his offseason work. For that and general conditioning reasons, Jones has been even more careful with his diet, and has dropped 10 pounds to about 222.
He hopes that will takes some stress off both knees, but especially the right one, which couldn't take any pressure when he first tried swinging right-handed a few weeks ago. He'll also be working on a quicker swing as the game speeds up on him.
Until the regular season starts, however, Jones doesn't know how his body will feel, and won't know whether he can hit in the clutch. That will be his litmus test for playing the 2012 season and beyond.
Jones will be paid $14 million this season, the last year of three year, $42-million extension. A $9 million option for 2013 is automatic if he plays in 123 games in 2012, or averages 127 games for 2011 and 2012.
His 2013 option vests after he plays 123 games, and there is an additional $1 million for reaching 128, 133, 138 and 140 games.
General manager Frank Wren has said for the last two seasons that he expects Jones to play in the area of 120 games a season.
And the candidates to spell him are in short supply if Prado is traded.
Prospect Joe Terdoslavich, 22, is a candidate because he tore up the Arizona Fall League. But he is still a prospect, and a first-base prospect at that. He'll be playing third this season.
Other possible candidates who are at least a year or two away include shortstop/third baseman Edward Salcedo, shortstop Matt Lipka and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
RHP Craig Kimbrel earned two more postseason awards, these from the Negro League Museum Legacy awards: National League Reliever of the Year and Rookie of the year. And while he appreciates the recognition, it's the meltdown at the end of last season that's motivating him. He is determined never again to let his emotions cause him to speed his delivery, which is what happened when he blew the save in the final game.
CF Michael Bourn was cited by the Negro League Museum Legacy Awards for his base-stealing, earning the James "Cool Papa" Bell Award for the National League. The day the Braves acquired Bourn from the Astros, he already had 39 stolen bases. The rest of the Braves had 42 at the time, and 15 of those belonged to CF Jordan Schafer, who was sent to the Astros in that deal.
3B Chipper Jones has dropped about 10 pounds to about 222, hoping to lighten the stress on his surgically repaired knees, particularly the right one, which required mid-season arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
RHP Brandon Beachy, who set a modern franchise rookie record with 169 strikeouts last season, is raring to go again. Beachy compiled a 7-3 record with a 3.62 ERA last season, and while it seemed as though he was starting against the Phillies every week, in reality, only four of his 25 starts were against them.
RHP Tommy Hanson is confident that rest and the work he has done strengthening his back muscles will prevent a recurrence of the right shoulder soreness that plagued him last season.
INF/OF Martin Prado avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $4.75 million contract.
INF Jack Wilson signed a one-year deal to remain with the Braves.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"If these kids continue to mature at the pace they are, we could have a lot of really tough decisions." -- General manager Frank Wren, on the Braves' young pitchers.