SAN FRANCISCO - Chipper Jones looked at the right field wall looming just 309 feet away from home plate at Pac Bell Park and cautioned himself not to swing for the fence.
"You see that porch in right field, and you want to fly open and hit it down the line like Barry Bonds does," the Atlanta Braves left fielder said. "But if you stay up the middle and go the other way, good things can happen."
Pac Bell is quickly building a reputation as a pitcher's park, despite Bonds' home run record last year. Though the right field wall looks inviting, the right-center field alley is baseball's Death Valley - 421 feet away - the wall in left-center is 404 feet from home plate, and the wind off the bay is usually a pitcher's ally.
"This ballpark is not easy to hit home runs in, especially for left-handers," Jones said. "But Bonds seems to do it at will. To hit half of his 73 homers in this ballpark is ungodly."
Jones ignored his own advice in the eighth inning of Thursday's 5-4 win over the Giants, rifling a bases-loaded double against the right field wall.
"Hey, if they're going to pitch me inside," he said.
Jones and the Braves will arrive in a hitters' paradise today when they open a weekend series at Denver's Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies. Because the ball carries farther in the mile-high conditions, outfielders have to play deeper in the spacious outfield, which allows many soft flies to fall in front of them.
Pitchers hate Coors; hitters can't wait to get there.
"I love playing there, but I've learned I have to calm down a little bit when I walk in there," said Jones, who has hit .310 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI at Coors.
STRIKE TALK: On the subject of a possible player's strike, Jones was equally blunt.
"I hear people talking about how another work stoppage will kill the game, but I don't see that," he said. "Nobody wants a work stoppage, particularly us. We would give up a lot of money and, contrary to popular belief, we love to play the game, but we're not going to be bent over backward by the owners."
Like many players acknowledge privately, Jones feels a work stoppage is inevitable. The two sides are far apart, he said, and with no progress being made on a new Basic Agreement, an August strike date seems likely.
"August is perfect because it threatens the playoffs," he said. "We've all been forewarned to save our money."
DID YOU KNOW? Greg Maddux came within three outs of a complete game Wednesday afternoon, which would have been the staff's first of the season. The team's last complete game? Tom Glavine did it last Sept. 3 against the Montreal Expos. Maddux hasn't had one since last July 17 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and after completing 30 games from 1994-97, he has 22 in the four-plus seasons since then.
PLAYERS' CHOICE: Given a choice, the hitter the Braves most want at the plate with the game on the line isn't Jones, it's Mark DeRosa. The shortstop, whose hitting has won him a spot in the lineup, is batting .545 (6 for 11) with runners in scoring position. He hit .370 in the same situation last year. Jones, who was leading the league with runners in scoring position two weeks ago, has fallen off the pace. His average has dipped to .424.
KEEP WALKING: Center fielder Andruw Jones still swings at sliders off the plate (as his club-leading 44 strikeouts attest), but he's becoming more patient. He's among league leaders with 26 walks in 161 at-bats, just 30 fewer than he accepted last year in 625 at-bats, and his walk total leads the club.
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