published Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones’ knee being scoped

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones will miss the start of his farewell season.

Two days after Jones announced this will be his final year, the Braves said Saturday that he needs arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee.

The procedure will be performed Monday. The 39-year-old Jones will open the season on the disabled list, but the team expects him to miss only the first six games. General manager Frank Wren said Jones should return in time for the April 13 home opener.

Martin Prado, normally the team’s starting left fielder, will move to the infield until Jones returns. Wren said he’s not looking to make a trade for help at third base or in the outfield.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he’ll be cautious not to rush Jones back.

“I’m thinking, just being common sense, that this may take a little longer,” Gonzalez said after a spring-training game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “We’ve got to get him back in shape and swinging the bat.”

Jones missed about two and a half weeks last season after having arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. This is just the latest in a string of injuries that persuaded him to retire after one more season. He turns 40 next month.

“The last time he had surgery ... it took only about 17 days to get him back on the field. Of course, that being said, he had played for two and a half months. He wasn’t that far out of rhythm or out of shape,” Gonzalez said. “But knowing him, If it’s not right on17 days, it may be 21. He knows his body. He doesn’t take very long to get his rhythm going at the plate.”

With Prado starting the season at third base, the Braves could turn to Matt Diaz or Eric Hinske in left field. Jones’ injury also could create an opportunity for Jose Constanza or Jordan Parraz.

None are likely to match Jones’ numbers. Last season, he hit .275 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs.

“He’s a big presence on the field and in the lineup, but we’ve got plenty of guys who can pick up the slack,” Gonzalez said.

Jones, who has spent his entire 18-year career with Atlanta, actually planned to retire after the 2010 season, only to change his mind. As he battled leg issues this spring, he openly wondered if he’d be able to make it through the season.

“I have fulfilled everything,” Jones said Thursday during a news conference at the team’s spring training stadium in Kissimmee, flanked by his family and teammates. “There’s nothing left for me to do.”

Jones won the NL MVP award in 1999 and the league batting title in 2008 and is a seven-time All-Star. No matter what happens in his final season, he will go down as one of the game’s greatest switch-hitters, a player who could hit for average (.304 in his career) and power (454 homers and 1,561 RBIs).

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