Jones back at third base against Royals

Updated: June 15, 2004, 7:47 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones moved back to the infield, as expected. His position was the surprise.

Braves manager Bobby Cox put Jones at third base for Tuesday night's game against the Kansas City Royals, replacing Mark DeRosa.

Chipper Jones
Left Field
Atlanta Braves
40 9 19 17 0 .210

"It's the only way we can get him in the lineup," Cox said. "That's what we're going to do for a week or two. Or a game or two."

Jones, an everyday third baseman from 1995-01, had been taking grounders at first in the past few weeks and was expected to play there since an injured right hamstring limited his mobility in left field.

Instead, the 1999 NL MVP was back at third. Cox made the decision to leave Julio Franco at first because Franco is one of the Braves' best hitters -- he was 7-for-18 (.389) on the recent six-game road trip.

"Third is my natural position, I feel comfortable there," Jones said. "I've never played an inning at first. It just seemed like the natural thing to do."

DeRosa, one of Jones' best friends, was noticeably disappointed.

"I just want this team to know -- and I think they do -- that I just want what's best for our team," he said. "I don't think it's me on the bench, and I think most guys would say that."

Jones has also played 48 games at shortstop during his 11-year career -- but none since 2000. He was on the disabled list from April 26-May 7 with a pulled hamstring, then injured it again earlier this month against Montreal.

Since then, Jones only returned to the lineup as a designated hitter when the Braves visited AL teams during interleague play. He looks forward to getting back in the infield.

"You're into the game every pitch," Jones said. "You're focused on what's called and what's thrown. Out in the outfield, it's not that way. That was the hardest part."

He struggled a bit defensively at both positions throughout his career, totaling 25 errors twice at third and finished with seven in each of the past two seasons in left field.

Before the 2002 season, Jones volunteered to try the outfield so the Braves could sign Vinny Castilla. Now, in order to get back in the lineup, he's relegating his buddy to the bench.

"It's difficult for him," Jones said. "He's waited his whole life for an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, and he had it. As I told him, I don't think I can go out in the outfield and survive right now."

DeRosa might get a chance to play second a little, with Marcus Giles still out with a broken collarbone. Rookie Nick Green has been impressive there in place of Giles, batting .297 with two homers and 12 RBIs.

In 60 games, DeRosa is hitting .223 with three home runs.

"Fifty percent of it is brought on by how I started," DeRosa said. "It's definitely a tough pill to swallow. But it's kind of tough to argue my position with a .223 batting average."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press