HOUSTON -- Chipper Jones returned to the Braves lineup on Tuesday night, confident that his surgically repaired left knee will remain strong and determined to help his club escape its early-season woes.
It did not take long for Jones to contribute. He singled in his first at-bat, then drilled a two-run homer in a three-run third inning that gave the Braves the lead in an eventual 6-4 win over the Astros.
The immediate success contradicted Jones' fear fact that he had not seen enough live pitching recently to regain his ability to time and react to fastballs. The veteran third baseman had not played since March 20. But instead of playing a rehab game or two in the Minors, he opted to simply push himself during a pregame workout on Monday.
"I'm real concerned with my timing at the plate," Jones said before the game. "It's probably not going to be there at the beginning. But going down and getting some a-bats in the Minors is not going to accelerate the process."
Given that Tuesday night's game at Minute Maid Park was his first in three weeks, Jones expects to wake up on Wednesday feeling some normal soreness and fatigue. But after watching the Braves lose their first four games while he was on the disabled list, he seemed determined to play in Wednesday night's series finale against the Astros.
"Hopefully these guys will get a little more comfortable and get some innings under their belt and we'll start doing what we have to, to win games," Jones said. "Obviously, it's a little easier to take days off when you're confident we can still go out there to win games."
Two weeks shy of his 40th birthday and two weeks removed from a surgical procedure that repaired torn meniscus in his left knee, Jones plans to rest during Thursday's off-day, then return to the lineup for Friday night's home opener against the Brewers.
"If he feels good, I will want him in there," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Outfielder Jose Constanza was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Jones on the 25-man roster.