Injured Chipper Jones: 'We're better with me on bench'

SAN FRANCISCO — A day after Chipper Jones delivered a rally-sparking pinch-hit single against Toronto, the veteran third baseman's sprained big toe kept him out of the lineup again Monday for the series opener against the Giants.

Shortstop Yunel Escobar was also out of the lineup for the third consecutive game since straining his right hip flexor.

Manager Bobby Cox said Escobar's status was day-to-day, but he indicated that Jones could be out another couple of games or more. He has already missed four consecutive starts.

"It's probably the worst one he's had," Cox said, comparing Jones' right big-toe injury to similar ones in previous years.

Jones was in the initial lineup posted Monday morning, but that was quickly changed after he got to the ballpark and told Cox that his toe was still aching.

There was lingering black-and-blue bruising around the bunion on the inside of his big toe, which is where Jones hurt it when his foot hit the inside of the base as he short-stepped first base while running out a grounder Thursday.

"It's just not ready yet," Jones said Monday morning. "I can't go out there and play defense and run the bases."

Cox said he doesn't think the Braves will have to put Jones on the 15-day disabled list, but added that it would be easier to carry him in a bench role for a longer period if the Braves still had veteran utility man Omar Infante on the active roster. Infante is on the DL with a broken hand.

"I don't think it's a DL" situation with Jones, Cox said. "I hope not."

Without the versatile Infante, the Braves are using utility man Martin Prado at third base. That leaves inexperienced rookie Diory Hernandez as the only other backup infielder. Hernandez's best position is shortstop, where he has filled in for Escobar.

"There were some plays Martin made [Sunday] that I wouldn't have been able to get to," Jones said. "He's done a great job, and I think we're better off right now with him out there and me coming off the bench."

Asked if he was frustrated by the toe injury, Jones said, "It is what it is. It's a sprain. It takes some time for the soreness and swelling to get out of there. Just doesn't happen overnight. ...

"Running the bases [Sunday] was painful, and it's not going to be any better today."

His pinch-hit single with the bases loaded got things rolling in a seven-run seventh inning Sunday against Toronto, and the Braves won 10-2 to complete a sweep of the Blue Jays.

Jones insisted on staying in to run the bases because he didn't want Cox to have to waste another position player pinch-running for him in what was at the time a close game. Cox had planned to use pitcher Kris Medlen as a pinch-runner. Jones said if he had known that, he wouldn't have insisted on running.

He said Monday that while he didn't think running the bases made his toe worse, it probably didn't help the situation.