ATLANTA -- With the help of a day off for his knee to recover after the long flight back from Los Angeles, Chipper Jones was in the Braves' lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Pirates.
"It didn't feel too good when we got back," Jones said. "The off-day definitely helped. It felt a lot better this morning."
Jones, who had arthroscopic surgery in Spring Training, had his knee swell on a trip from Houston to Atlanta after he came off the disabled list and had to have it drained, missing the Braves' first two home games against the Brewers.
The third baseman then played just the middle two games of a four-game set in Arizona and sat out the opener with the Dodgers before celebrating his 40th birthday on Tuesday with a home run and having a big hit on Wednesday.
Going into the series against the Pirates, the Braves were 9-2 when Jones played, and 3-5 when he didn't.
"We want to keep him fresh and productive all season," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Sometime this weekend, we'll give him a breather."
Jones, who finished the road trip batting .278 with three homers and 10 RBIs, hit sixth again on Friday night, with Freddie Freeman third, Brian McCann fourth and Dan Uggla fifth. In his 10 starts, Jones has batted third three times, fourth once and sixth five times.
The Braves have used 15 different lineups in 20 games, but have stuck with the same one for the past three games.
Jurrjens eager to pinpoint struggles, work back
ATLANTA -- Jair Jurrjens skipped Triple-A Toledo en route to Detroit during what he thought would be his only Minor League journey. But the Ohio city is where he will be pitching Sunday as he tries to make it back to the Braves.
A National League All-Star last year, Jurrjens was optioned to Gwinnett late Monday night after falling to 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts this season. The Braves needed a spot in the rotation for Tim Hudson, but the move still caught many, including Jurrjens, off-guard.
After a long and sobering flight back from Los Angeles the next day, though, the 26-year-old right-hander reported to his new team in suburban Atlanta on Wednesday, well ahead of the 72-hour reporting deadline.
Jurrjens, who missed the final two months of last season because of a knee injury, knows that he has a lot of work ahead.
"I can't be mad at anybody other than me," said the native of Curacao, labeling the demotion a "reality check."
Is Jurrjens' knee still a problem? Did he hurt his arm trying to compensate?
"I wish I had something to blame it on," said Jurrjens, who has lost velocity and movement on his pitches.
"We know for sure he's not hurt," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
But before Gwinnett left for a road trip beginning Friday in Toledo, Jurrjens admitted that he needs to built up his leg strength and rebuild his confidence.
"You go through a rough patch, and it's hard to figure out what's going on," he said. "I need to get that mindset back that I'm going to get you out. Then I think I'll be fine."
"He knew he's not right," said Gonzalez, who informed Jurrjens of the demotion after he lasted just three-plus innings against the Dodgers. "You could see his body language, his frustration."
Jurrjens, who has won 14 games once and 13 twice for the Braves, is scheduled to follow his start on Sunday in Toledo with one at Columbus next Friday in the finale of Gwinnett's eight-game trip. The G-Braves, who lead the South Division of the International League, have a 10-game homestand May 5-14.
Braves anticipate Hudson's 2012 debut Sunday
ATLANTA -- The Braves elected to give Mike Minor the extra day of rest between starts rather than Tim Hudson, even though the veteran threw 110 pitches in his last rehab start on Tuesday for Gwinnett.
Hudson, who had back surgery last November, will make his 2012 debut on Sunday against the Pirates, with Minor starting the series finale on Monday night.
"We were prepared to go the other way if Huddy needed it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But this way, he goes with his regular turn."
"I'm ready to go," Hudson said. "No problems at all."
Hudson made four Minor League starts, the final two with Triple-A Gwinnett. He was 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA for the G-Braves, working five innings in the first game and 5 2/3 innings in the second.
"I'm happy with it," Hudson said after his final tuneup. "I felt a little more crisp. I felt like my sinker was pretty good, some really good curveballs. It was a sign of getting some touch back with my off-speed pitches."
Best of all, Hudson has had no back discomfort.
"Back feels great. It's not an issue," Hudson said. "My legs are feeling pretty good. I feel like they're getting under me. My arm strength is gradually getting a little better."
Hudson's fastball was sitting at 91 mph during his final rehab start, with one pitch reaching 92 mph.
"I feel like my velocity was better than it was in my other starts," he said. "Consistently, I feel like it's staying where I want it."
Minor, 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA, threw 79 pitches over six innings in a no-decision against the Dodgers on Tuesday. He allowed eight hits and three runs.
Friday night's series opener against the Pirates began a stretch of 33 games in 34 days for the Braves. The only day off during the stretch is May 10, between road series with the Cubs and Cardinals.
The Braves wore their red jerseys for the first time this season on Friday night. In years past, red was worn on Sunday during home games. This season, the Braves are wearing retro cream uniforms for Saturday and Sunday games.
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.