ATLANTA - Get ready, Rome, Chipper Jones is headed your way.
The left fielder plans to take in the first inning or two of this afternoon's Braves-Padres game, then jump in his car with his wife and son and drive to Rome in time to play in tonight's Rome-Capital City game at Floyd County Stadium.
"Obviously, there's no substitute for game situations," said Jones, who has been sidelined since April 19 with a slightly torn hamstring. "It's important I go up there and chase some fly balls."
Jones tested the injury Wednesday afternoon, running sprints in the outfield and taking a turn around the bases.
He reported no soreness after Tuesday's workout and trainers have cleared him to play.
"I was anxious to see how it would react coming out of the box and making turns," Jones said. "It felt fine. When I can go two or three days in a row without any soreness, that's when I'm thinking I'm pretty close."
If Jones clears his final hurdle tonight in Rome, the team plans to activate him from the disabled list before Friday night's series opener against the Astros.
LINEUP CHANGES: Bobby Cox was creative again in penciling in Wednesday night's lineup, choosing Damon Hollins to leadoff and sending Mike Hessman to left field. It was his 22nd different lineup in 26 games.
"It's good in a way," Cox said. "It gives the bench guys an opportunity to feel like a bigger part of the team. I've always liked a bench that can play, not just hit. Our bench can play."
It's hard to argue with Cox's logic with part-time shortstop Jesse Garcia batting .320 and Hollins hitting .400.
BANGED UP: Right fielder Dewayne Wise, who was involved in a collision with center fielder Andruw Jones in Tuesday's win, was sporting a black eye and a bandaged cut near his right eye Wednesday.
In tangling with Jones, Wise was stepped on as the center fielder made the catch and tumbled over him.
"I'm just glad (Andruw) was wearing plastic spikes and not metal ones," Wise said.
Said Jones: "I've told (Wise) to go for the ball until he hears me. He just didn't hear me."
Wise wasn't in Wednesday night's lineup.
NO MORE HITCH: Adam LaRoche credits some video and tips from hitting coach Terry Pendleton and Chipper Jones with correcting a hitch in his swing.
"I've always had a hitch, but it was getting too big," the first baseman said. "I wasn't catching up to the fastball. I worked on getting rid of part of the hitch."
LaRoche looked at some video and noticed that he was dropping his hands as he strode into a pitch. Working with Pendleton, he began bringing his hands straight back and the result was a single and double in Tuesday's win.
His single was a 400-foot drive off the center field wall that Johnny Estrada, running off second, misread, forcing Andruw Jones to stop at second and LaRoche at first.
"(Estrada) is our RBI leader right now and obviously he feels threatened by me," LaRoche joked.
SHORT HOPS: Estrada's 20 RBI leads all National League catchers and his .347 batting average is tied for the league's ninth-best. ...Leadoff man Rafael Furcal missed a fourth straight start Wednesday night because of a jammed right ring finger. He said the injury bothers him throwing, but not swinging a bat. ... J.D. Drew missed a second straight game with a stiff neck. Cox is hopeful Drew can return to the lineup in this afternoon's series finale.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com
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