Braves' Chipper Jones to have season-ending knee surgery, plans to return next season

Chipper Jones said Friday he will report to spring training next year with the Braves as he attempts a comeback from major knee surgery.

Jones, speaking for the first time since the team announced he tore his left ACL and will miss the rest of the season, said he will have surgery on the knee Saturday.

The 38-year-old Jones says now is not the right time to "make a decision to quit."

"I'm going to go through the process just like I'm getting ready for spring training," he said. "I don't know how the knee is going to respond.

"I'll try to get ready for spring training and we'll see how it feels after that."

The expected recovery time is about six months, giving him a chance to be ready for spring training in 2011. Jones said earlier this season he would consider retirement after the season.

He was hurt in Tuesday night's game at Houston. Jones fielded Hunter Pence's grounder near third base, jumped in the air while making the throw to first, then collapsed to the ground in foul territory. Pence was out on the play.

"The play he got hurt on might have been the best play I've ever seen him make," said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who sat beside Jones at Friday's news conference. "I mean, that was a Brooks Robinson play."

Jones missed all of 1994, which was expected to be his rookie season, with the same injury to the same knee.

"I know I lost a step the first time I had this surgery," Jones said. "If I lose another step I'm going to be going backward."

Jones said he'll be able to walk away from the game if he finds in spring training he cannot play at an acceptable level.

"Yeah, and I'll know pretty quick," he said.

Jones said he is encouraged by medical advances since his 1994 surgery. He said Saturday's surgery will be an arthroscopic procedure.

Jones returned from the 1994 injury to start on the Braves' 1995 World Series title team. He become a six-time All-Star who won the NL MVP award in 1999 and the NL batting title in 2007.

He has a .306 career batting average with 436 homers, third on the career list for switch-hitters behind Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504). No other switch-hitter has a .300 batting average and at least 300 career homers.

"When I was growing up I wanted to be mentioned with two people, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray," he said. "I think it's safe to say I have achieved that. There's really nothing else I can do individually that I haven't already done. The one thing I can do in my career is punctuate it with another championship. That's what drives me."

Jones said his biggest regret is that he won't be on the field as the first-place Braves try to hold off the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.

"This team is in first place and we've got a chance to do something really special and I feel deep down in my heart we're going to do it, and the fact that I'm not going to be a part of it is what really hurts," he said.

Jones' batting average fell 100 points from his NL-leading .364 mark in 2008 to .264 in 2009. He spoke of retirement when his average continued to fall early this season. It remained under .230 into June, but he gained momentum and was hitting .400 with three homers in nine games in August and finished his season hitting .265 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs.

"Obviously, Chipper was playing a big part in our club," Wren said. "It's a big loss for us because of the presence he gives us in the middle of our lineup."

The Braves recalled infielder Brandon Hicks from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill his roster spot.

Shortstop Alex Gonzalez moved into Jones' No. 3 spot in the batting order for Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Brooks Conrad started at third base.

Omar Infante, filling in for the injured Martin Prado at second base, could share time with Conrad at third when Prado is healthy.

Prado, who has a finger injury, took batting practice on Friday and said "it's a tough call" if he'll be able to come off the disabled list when eligible on Sunday.

Wren said he will confer with scouts and consider a trade to bolster the team's bench.

"We will look at players who have come through the waiver wire and players who might be available and see if they're difference makers for us," Wren said.