HOUSTON -- Chipper Jones returned to Minute Maid Park on Wednesday afternoon, feeling pretty good about what he had experienced after returning to the lineup on Tuesday night and fueling the Braves to their first win of the year.
But he was obviously feeling the effects of playing his first game in three weeks, just two weeks removed from a surgical procedure that repaired torn meniscus in his left knee.
"When is the last time you ever saw me stretching in the clubhouse?" Jones asked as he stretched in front of two reporters who have covered him for more than a decade. "I can tell you. You've never seen it."
Moments later, Eric Hinske walked by, looked at Jones and said, "What are you doing -- are you stretching?"
Still, Jones felt strong enough to play Wednesday night. Two weeks shy of his 40th birthday, the veteran third baseman showed his tremendous natural talent on Tuesday, producing hits in his first two at-bats, including a tiebreaking two-run home run in the third inning.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Hinske reacted to the home run by exclaiming, "It can't be that easy."
The only live pitching Jones had seen since March 20 came courtesy of a short batting practice session against Randall Delgado on Friday. Plus, he had compiled just 25 at-bats in the spring before undergoing the knee surgery.
Gonzalez pulled Jones into his office on Monday and proposed the idea of playing three Minor League rehab games before returning. But less than a minute into that conversation, he realized he was not going to win that battle.