Notes: Jones' return uncertain

Notes: Jones' return uncertain

ATLANTA -- Other than knowing he's going to be limping around with a protective boot for at least another month, Chipper Jones' future remains a mystery to him and the Braves.

While there is hope that the damaged ligament in his left foot will heal within the next six weeks, Jones knows there's still a chance the bunion that brought on his injury could prove bothersome again and force him to have surgery.

"It's the reason I've got foot problems," said Jones, who has been battling discomfort caused by bunions on both of his feet for the past four or five years.

Bunions, which are often caused by wearing tight shoes, cause the big toe to become swollen and point inward. The increased pressure could have caused Jones to suffer a partial tear of the lateral collateral ligament between the second and third toes while running toward the plate on April 24.

Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter said that the bunions made Jones "more predisposed to this kind of injury" and confirmed that they could hinder the natural healing process, which foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson suggested instead of surgery on Thursday.

When foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson examined Jones on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C., he told the Braves third baseman that if he opted for surgery, he couldn't return this year. Nothing more need to be said.

"[I wanted] whatever alternative was going to give me the chance to play," said Jones, who was placed on the disabled list after aggravating the injury on Sunday at PNC Park.

If Jones' condition hasn't improved when he's re-examined in a month, he could then opt for the surgery and still be ready by the start of Spring Training next year.

Anderson also told Jones that having surgery to correct the bunions wasn't an option because it would likely be a career-ending procedure.

While the 33-year-old Jones would have liked an option that allowed him to return much sooner, learning surgery wasn't necessary was the best news he could have received. But at the same time, Anderson told the injury-riddled veteran that there isn't a definite timetable in relation to his injury.

"He said toes have a mind of their own," Jones said. "I'm beginning to think all parts of the anatomy have a mind of their own."

Estrada changes analysis: When Braves catcher Johnny Estrada first spoke to the media about his collision with Darin Erstad, he hadn't seen an overhead view that the Braves video coordinator, Rob Smith, provided him late Wednesday afternoon.

The opportunity to see it from a different angle made Estrada think differently about Erstad, who knocked Estrada in the face and to the ground while scoring the winning run on Monday night.

"It doesn't make me mad that I got hit or that I had to stay a night in the hospital," Estrada said. "What frustrates me is that there are a lot of people out there who believe it was a good, hard baseball play. I just don't think it was. I think it was something that could have been avoided.

"I think he made up his mind way too early that he was going to come and run me over, no matter where he was. You can clearly see on that camera angle overhead that the plate was open. He could have gone straight, but instead made a left turn and cleaned my clock."

Estrada, who suffered a concussion and whiplash, will likely return to the lineup on Monday, which would mean the Bay Area native would miss the opportunity to play against the A's -- his favorite team as a child -- this weekend.

Betemit gets hot corner nod in young lineup: While Jones is out, Braves manager Bobby Cox plans to give both Wilson Betemit and Andy Marte time at third base. Betemit got the nod in Friday night's series opener against the A's.

"Betemit has been so hot," said Cox in reference to the 24-year-old former top prospect's .435 (10-for-23) batting average in June. "It's kind of not fair to sit him on the bench all of the time."

Betemit joined Kyle Davies, Ryan Langerhans and Brian McCann, who was making his Major League debut, as the group of four rookies in the Braves' lineup on Friday. Davies and McCann formed the first pitcher and catcher duo under the age of 22 since Aug. 19, 1984, when a 19-year-old Dwight Gooden took the mound for the Mets and threw to 21-year-old catcher John Gibbons.

The Braves have nine rookies on their roster. While Cox can't remember if he's ever had to play this many youngsters at once, he indicates it doesn't concern him.

"None of that bothers me," Cox said. "Honestly, that never comes across my mind. We've got nine guys on the field, just like they do."

Thomas returns: Charles Thomas, who was one of the three players the Braves traded to Oakland for Tim Hudson in December, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday. Still, he came to Atlanta to see his former teammates and speak with some of the friends and family members who had planned to come see him this weekend.

"For this to have happened at this point, it's frustrating," Thomas said. "It just shows you just how much of a business it is."

Thomas, who was hitting just .109 (5-for-46), feels he didn't get enough of an opportunity for regular playing time in Oakland. He had just seven at-bats in between May 18-June 8.

"It's been frustrating, to say the least. I came into a situation here last year where I got a chance to play, and obviously things turned out well. This year, I never got a chance to get going."

Braves bits: The Braves will promote a pitcher from their Minor League system to serve as their starter on Tuesday night against the Rangers. ... Seth Greisinger cleared waivers on Thursday and was optioned to Triple-A Richmond. ... Raul Mondesi cleared unconditional release waivers and was released by the Braves on Wednesday.

Coming Up: John Smoltz (4-5, 3.24 ERA) will oppose Kirk Saarloos (2-4, 4.75 ERA) in the second-game of a three-game set against the A's on Saturday afternoon.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.