0

BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Breakout star Simmons headed to DL; Chipper set to be honored, make first trip to K.C.'s Kauffman Stadium

After nearly two decades playing in the majors, Atlanta veteran Chipper Jones will finally get a chance to play in Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium tonight during the 2012 All-Star Game.

After nearly two decades playing in the majors, Atlanta veteran Chipper Jones will finally get a chance to play in Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium tonight during the 2012 All-Star Game.

ATLANTA — Braves rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons will miss at least a month with a broken right little finger.

Simmons hurt his finger on a head-first slide in Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.

The Braves on Monday said Simmons’ hand will be in a cast for four weeks. His status will be updated after the cast is removed.

The injury was confirmed when Simmons was examined by team physician Gary Lourie. Simmons was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Simmons, 22, began the year in the minor leagues.

Another rookie, Tyler Pastornicky, opened the season as the starting shortstop and may be recalled to replace Simmons.

General manager Frank Wren said he spoke with manager Fredi Gonzalez on Monday about the team’s options at shortstop. He said the team likely will make a roster move on Thursday.

“Fredi and I spoke this afternoon and we’ve started the process by talking with our scouts and will continue discussions with our minor league staff over the next few days to determine their thoughts on who would be the best fit for our club,” Wren told The Associated Press.

The Braves return from the All-Star break to open a home series against the Mets on Friday night. Atlanta is four games behind first-place Washington in the NL East.

Simmons was called up on June 1 and is hitting .294 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 33 games. He was named the NL rookie of the month for June.

Pastornicky, 22, hit .248 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 45 games with the Braves. His seven errors helped convince the team to make the change to Simmons on June 1.

Since his demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, Pastornicky has five errors in 36 games. He is hitting .264 with one homer and 20 RBIs.

Pastornicky was regarded as the more polished hitter but Simmons was seen as the superior fielder when the two competed for the starting job in spring training. Simmons’ range and strong arm have earned compliments in his first two months in the majors. His strong hitting has been a surprise.

The Braves want Pastornicky to work at second base and in the outfield in the minors to expand his potential to earn a roster spot as a utility player. That plan may be put on hold if he is recalled to take over at shortstop.

The Braves also have veteran shortstop Jack Wilson, who has played in a backup role, on their roster.


ATLANTA TO HONOR CHIPPER IN FINAL REGULAR-SEASON GAME:

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves will honor Chipper Jones before the start of his final home regular-season series.

The Braves on Monday announced plans to honor Jones in a pregame ceremony Sept. 28 before they open a series against the New York Mets. Jones, who has spent his entire career in Atlanta, plans to retire after the season.

The 40-year-old is hitting .318 with six homers and 33 RBI. He will be a reserve in tonight’s All-Star game in Kansas City.

Jones was the NL MVP in 1999 and batting champion in 2008 and is considered a strong Hall of Fame candidate.

Team president John Schuerholz says the Braves will use the ceremony to show Jones “how much he has meant to us.”


FINALLY, CHIPPER GETS TO PLAY IN KAUFFMAN STADIUM:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chipper Jones has played in just about every major league ballpark during nearly two decades of service to the Atlanta Braves. The eight-time All-Star even outlasted a handful of them, such as the old Yankee Stadium.

He’d never stepped foot in Kauffman Stadium until Monday afternoon.

The Braves keep missing visits to Kansas City during interleague play, one of the strange quirks in the schedule. The 40-year-old third baseman has already announced his intention to retire after this season, so this is his chance.

“To be able to say I’ve played in each and every ballpark, it’s not something every player gets to do,” Jones said before an afternoon batting practice. “Fortunately, we’re having the All-Star game here, otherwise I wouldn’t have that opportunity.”

Jones has certainly had a season worthy of being an All-Star.

He’s hitting .318 with six homers and 33 RBI in 49 games, putting him on pace for his best season since 2008, when he led the league with a .368 batting average.

“It’s amazing, you know, to play in the league as long as he has and never been to Kansas City. What a way to come here, to make the All-Star team in his final season,” said Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who is making his second All-Star game appearance.

“It’s awesome just to watch him play this year, to see the things he’s doing.”

Royals manager Ned Yost, who is helping to coach the American League team, was on the staff of the Braves when Jones made his debut as a 21-year-old in 1993. He only played in eight games that season, but even then, Yost had a feeling he was destined for greatness.

“You knew this kid was going to be a Hall of Famer,” Yost said. “I mean, he was just that talented — switch hitter, young, athletic, tremendous player.”

Jones’ prodigious talent carried him to plenty of All-Star games, but there a couple that stood out. One of them was in 2000, when he was the hometown guy playing in Atlanta and went 3 for 3 with a homer. The other was his first All-Star game, in 1996, at long-gone Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, though not so much for anything he did on the field.

“Yeah, I was in awe. I kept my mouth shut. I spoke when spoken to, and that was about it,” he recalled. “I was in a locker room with Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, I mean, the elite of the elite. I wasn’t really sure whether I belonged in the same room with those guys, but you know, I can just remember not wanting to make a (bad) impression, you know?”

He made quite a good impression, in fact, with a hit in two at-bats — a harbinger of things to come.

“There have been a lot of lifelong friendships forged in these All-Star clubhouses over the years,” Jones said. “It’s an opportunity to learn, and just have a good time.”