LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Chipper Jones is coming back.
Well, for five days.
The retired Braves third baseman is set to arrive at spring training Friday for a five-day stint as a guest instructor. Manager Fredi Gonzalez joked that he would have a fungo bat waiting for the future Hall of Famer to hit grounders on the farthest backfield at the team’s training complex at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
The Braves’ first full-squad practice is Friday, after the past three days of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Most position players arrived early and have worked out this week separate from pitchers.
The Braves said Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy are among other former players scheduled to serve as guest instructors this spring, but didn’t have specific dates yet.
It’s been noticeably more quiet in the Braves clubhouse than in the past, when the team’s early arriving position players included Jones, who retired after the 2012 season, and in recent years the likes of veterans David Ross and Eric Hinske, who both left as free agents. All were gregarious and outspoken, as was pitcher Peter Moylan, now with the Dodgers.
“There’s a lot of new people, and lot of people that were big parts of our team are gone, from a personality standpoint,” Braves pitcher Tim Hudson said. “I mean, it’s way different. I’m not saying it’s better or worse; I don’t even know yet. It’s still too early…. Pretty much every big personality is gone elsewhere.”
Last year at age 40, Jones hit .287 with 14 homers and a .377 on-base percentage in 112 games in his 19th season.
“I think the team’s going to be all right” in the post-Chipper era, Braves legend Hank Aaron said Thursday. He smiled and added: “He might want to take a little batting practice, who knows? He was hitting pretty well when he left here. He might want to take a little batting practice. We might need him for a pinch-hit or something.”
Constanza delayed: On official reporting day for Braves position players Thursday, Jose Constanza was the only absentee. The outfielder was delayed by visa issues in his native Dominican Republic.
Juan Jaime and Yohan Flande, Dominican pitchers delayed by visa issues, were expected to arrive in Orlando on Thursday night and take part in Friday’s workout. That would leave Wirfin Obispo as the only pitcher not in camp. He was also delayed by visa issues in the D.R.
Get your Bobbleheads: In addition to the usual promotions such as Friday Night Fireworks, Alumni Sundays and two Bark in the Park games, the Braves are also giving away bobbleheads at two home games this season. Freddie Freeman bobbleheads will be distributed to the first 20,000 throught the turnstiles May 30, and B.J. Upton bobbleheads go to the first 20,000 fans June 20.
Also, magnetic schedule will be given away at April 5-6 home games, and ‘80s replica caps on July 27.