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MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2007
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Chipper Jones says sore side ‘just a tweak’

By Charles Odum
Associated Press Writer

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Chipper Jones was held out of the Atlanta Braves’ lineup for the third straight game Sunday with a sore muscle on his right side, but he doesn’t think the injury is serious.

“It’s just a tweak,” Jones said through team spokesman Brad Hainje.

The third baseman hopes to play Wednesday, but could be held out much longer. Jones, who turns 35 next month, said his absence from the lineup is “precautionary, to make sure it’s 100 percent.”

Jones was pulled out of Friday night’s game after feeling soreness during batting practice. The injury caused alarm because he missed a total of 27 games with two trips to the disabled list due to a strained left oblique last season.

Braves manager Bobby Cox has taken a cautious approach with Jones’ injury. On Friday, Cox proclaimed that he would hold Jones out and wait for him to get completely healthy “if it takes the rest of spring.”

Cox shifted from that stance only slightly on Sunday.

“Chipper is a little better today,” Cox said. “He’s looking at Wednesday. We’ll see.

“I told him, ‘If you could play the last two games here and two games against the White Sox, it would be fine with me.”’

The Braves host exhibition games against the Chicago White Sox in Atlanta on March 30 and 31. If Jones follows Cox’s suggestion, he would miss 10 more days.

Martin Prado started at third base for the second consecutive game Sunday in the Braves’ split-squad game against Detroit. Willy Aybar, if healthy, would be the probable fill-in at third if Jones is not ready to open the season.

Aybar has missed time this spring with a sore left wrist. Another possibility is Pete Orr. Prado, Orr and Willie Harris have competed with favorite Kelly Johnson for the starting job at second base.

Aybar made 26 starts at third base for Atlanta last season following his July 28 trade to the Braves.

Jones played in only 110 games last season, but he was a productive No. 3 hitter when healthy. He hit .324 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs in 411 at-bats.

His .304 career batting average ranks second among switch-hitters, trailing Frankie Frisch’s .316 mark. He drove in 100 or more runs in eight straight seasons from 1996-2003.

Jones is the only switch-hitter to have a .300 career batting average and 300 or more homers. His 357 homers rank second in Atlanta history, trailing Dale Murphy’s 371.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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