Jones says he felt pressured by Smoltz to return to Braves' lineup
ATLANTA -- As the Atlanta Braves continue to struggle on the field, there is an unusual sign of disharmony among the team's most established veterans.
Chipper Jones was back in the Braves' lineup Saturday, saying he felt pressured by pitcher John Smoltz to rush back from a groin injury. The Braves had suffered three straight shutout losses for the first time since 1988 entering the game, which they lost 2-1 to Detroit -- despite Jones' homer.
When asked before the game if he is rushing his return, Jones said, "Probably. But I feel a little backed into a corner."
Asked to elaborate, Jones indicated some doubted he was injured enough to miss games.
"Let's just say there are people who don't believe me," Jones said. "Let's just say that and leave it at that."
After Friday night's 5-0 loss to the Tigers, Smoltz said, "You can't worry about who's in the lineup and who isn't. You can't worry about that stuff anymore."
Added Smoltz: "I certainly appreciate the effort of the guys who are on the field busting it."
Smoltz didn't identify Jones as a player not in the lineup, but Jones said after Saturday's game that he got the message.
"I'd be stupid if I didn't take it the same way," Jones said, adding he planned to "play the rest of the games this year and do whatever I can. Somebody I know better not miss a start."
Smoltz, asked Saturday if he was referring to Jones, said, "I have no comment. I'm not even going to address that."
When asked Friday about his sore shoulder, Smoltz said: "We all could wish we were feeling better, but that's the way it goes."
Jones said he hasn't talked with Smoltz about the pitcher's comments.
"I got nothing to say," Jones said. "He made his point through the media. Now I'm going to make my point through the media. If he doesn't want to do it man to man, then fine."
The Braves have experienced very little clubhouse turmoil in Bobby Cox's tenure as manager, but Cox may have been aware of building tensions on Saturday.
"It's no time to start pointing fingers at people," Cox said before the game. "We'll stay in this together."
Cox's original lineup Saturday included Yunel Escobar at third base, as Cox anticipated Jones missing another game with his strained right adductor muscle.
Jones apparently sustained the injury, which is in the groin area, during Tuesday's game against Boston. He left Wednesday's game with the injury and was held out Friday following an off day Thursday.
Jones tested the injury by taking a few swings in the indoor batting cage and then took more swings during the team's regular batting practice, with Cox and trainer Jeff Porter watching.
Jones hasn't played a full season since 2003. He's been on the DL four years in a row with a variety of ailments: a hamstring problem three years ago, an injured foot the following season, a strained oblique last year.
Jones moved back into the lineup as the cleanup hitter.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press