Originally created 07/09/01

Braves notebook

BOSTON -- Chipper Jones will join the All-Star festivities today in Seattle, but he's uncertain whether he'll play in Tuesday night's game.

Voted the National League's starting third baseman, Jones is still hampered by sore left ribs and said Sunday he's "questionable" for the game.

"If I don't improve over what I felt like today, I'd say I probably won't start," he said. "But I have two days to see what will happen. I know that once I get out there I'll want to be in the starting lineup."

Jones, nailed by Wes Helms' warmup throw Thursday, was penciled in Sunday's lineup at third base, but after meeting with manager Bobby Cox, he was shifted to DH and Ken Caminiti played third.

Before the game, Jones acknowledged he was considering withdrawing from the All-Star game, but Cox encouraged him to attend.

"If I had my druthers, I'd like to take three days off," said Jones, who plans to limit his activity during today's workout.

"I don't want to go all the way out there and not play. If I'm out there, I want to participate. Playing with the best in the game is an honor and something that should be cherished."

Following Thursday's game, Jones' left side was x-rayed, but no breaks or hairline fractures were found. Doctors have assured him he'll feel better in the next day or two, but Jones, still in considerable pain Sunday, wondered why the pain had not subsided.

"I've had broken bones before and bruises, and this feels like a broken bone," he said.

Jones must have been feeling better by his fifth at-bat in the ninth inning Sunday when he launched a 410-foot home run into the right field seats against Red Sox reliever Carlos Castillo.

It was Jones' 25th home run of the season, the most he's ever had by an All-Star break, and leaves him just 20 home runs shy of his 1999 career high.

"I certainly think I'm capable of hitting 45 because I've done it before," he said. "Hopefully you can always build on career years."

While his teammates scattered for the All-Star break following Sunday's game, John Burkett joined Jones on a flight to Seattle.

Burkett, who was an All-Star in 1993, is second in the league with a 2.49 ERA, and among league leaders in strikeouts, opponents batting average, starts, and innings pitched.

"When I walk into the clubhouse, it will feel kind of strange," he said. "But I'll really get excited when they call down and ask me to pitch."

First baseman Rico Brogna shrugged at the team's signing of Ken Caminiti, which could significantly reduce his playing time in the second half.

"It wasn't an 'oh, no' reaction," he said. "Caminiti is a solid player who can help this team. But I'm not sure that's even the last thing that's going to happen."

Brogna anticipates the team making at least one more move before the July 31 trading deadline, whether to add a veteran shortstop or a slugger.

Given the combined production of Brogna and Wes Helms, no one will be surprised if Caminiti is given a long look at first base before the deadline.

"Our statistics are not at the level of other first basemen in the league," Brogna said. "But when you don't play every day, it's a little bit harder to put up the stats. Selfishly, I hope I play a lot. But the bottom line here is we've got two and a half months to go and winning a pennant and getting to the World Series is the most important thing."

Javy Lopez had a forgettable first half, hitting nine home runs and driving in just 35 runs in 263 at-bats, while batting .227 with runners in scoring position. Like Brian Jordan, he's spent the first three months of the season experimenting with a variety of stances, but he says now enough is enough.

"No more feeling around," he said. "But I can't expect everything to come at once. It will take time. I'm always trying to be patient, but it's hard."

With the exception of his first two seasons in the majors (1994-95), Lopez has never finished a first half without double-digit home runs. In the last four years, he's averaged 45 RBI at the break.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.


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