Notes: Outfield cost Chipper time
Third baseman says time away from infield led to injuries
ATLANTA -- When Chipper Jones made room for Vinny Castilla by moving to left field before the start of the 2002 season, it was viewed as an unselfish move that could likely cost him some All-Star selections.
While that theory has proven true, it has done so for different reasons than initially expected. There was no doubt moving to the outfield would create more competition for Jones when it came time to select All-Star teams. What wasn't known was the fact that the 2 1/2-season move away from third base would lead to an ongoing string of injuries that have continued to keep him away from the Midsummer Classic.
"I attribute a lot of my leg and foot problems to going to the outfield," said Jones, who has been on the disabled list six times since the start of the 2004 season with many different ailments, primarily relating to his lower extremities. "You don't have the all-out run at third base that you do in the outfield, and running the bases is a controlled run."
While playing third base from the start of his 1995 rookie season through the end of 2001, Jones was one of the game's most durable and successful players. During that span, Rafael Palmeiro, who spent a majority of the 1999 season and portions of others as a designated hitter, was the only Major Leaguer who appeared in and started more games than the Atlanta third baseman.
During that nine-season span, the Braves played a total of 1,439 games and Jones was in the starting lineup 1,377 times (96 percent). This regular playing time put him in position to join Sammy Sosa, Mel Ott and Willie Mays as the only NL players to record at least 100 RBIs over eight consecutive seasons.
Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell and Sosa were the only NL players with more RBIs during those nine years than Jones, who was selected to play in five of the six All-Star Games that were held from 1996-2001. Since moving to left field at the start of the 2002 season, he hasn't been back to the Midsummer Classic.
One of the primary reasons for his absence, especially since returning to third base midway through the 2004 season, is the fact that he's been in the starting lineup in just 392 of the 567 games (69 percent) of the games the Braves have played since the start of 2004.
Still, at 35 years old, Jones believes there's a chance he'll make at least one more All-Star Game appearance. His troublesome feet have reacted well to new footwear this year, and when healthy, he remains one of the game's top offensive threats. Entering Sunday, he led all NL third basemen who had at least 225 plate appearances with a 1.018 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).
"I know what my presence in the lineup means," Jones said. "But at this point, would you rather me sit out a game or two here and there, as opposed to jeopardizing two or three weeks? That's what I've had to juggle and struggle with over the past couple of years."
A tale of two streaks: With their win Saturday night, the Braves matched a season-best five-game winning streak. This essential surge immediately followed last week's demoralizing season-long five-game losing streak, during which they scored just one run.
During the losing streak, the Braves hit .150 (23-for-150) with one homer, a .212 on-base percentage and .183 slugging percentage.
During the five-game winning streak, they hit .352 (63-for-179) with five homers, a .415 on-base percentage and .520 slugging percentage. The 22 hits they totaled against the Nationals on Wednesday nearly matched the total they'd registered during the five-game drought.
Salty's homecoming: Growing up in West Palm Beach, Fla., which is about an hour north of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Jarrod Saltalamacchia considered himself a Braves fan who would accompany friends or family members to a Marlins game about six times a season.
Thus, it was somewhat special for Saltalamacchia to serve as the Braves' starting catcher for Sunday's series finale against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium. The 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher purchased about 25 tickets for friends and family members to come to the game.
"It's kind of cool," Saltalamacchia said. "I guess I'm going to have to do something special for them. But all that really matters is that we win."
Yates' stellar June: It was somewhat fitting that Bob Wickman's troubles forced Tyler Yates to retire the final two batters in Saturday night's 6-5 win. Essentially, Yates shut the door on June, a month he thoroughly dominated.
In 10 2/3 innings, he allowed just one earned run (0.84 ERA) and limited opponents to a .135 batting average. In his past 22 appearances dating back to May 7, the hard-throwing right-handed reliever has posted a 1.59 ERA.
Coming up: The Braves will begin a four-game series against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Monday night at 10:05 p.m. ET. They'll send John Smoltz (9-4, 2.98 ERA) to the mound to oppose Derek Lowe (8-7, 3.03 ERA).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.