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Chipper keeps close tabs on current Braves

ATLANTA -- A little more than two years have passed since Chipper Jones concluded his 19-season career with Atlanta. But while enjoying his retirement life with his family, the legendary third baseman still finds himself feeling stressed while watching Braves games on television.

When the Marlins loaded the bases with none out in the seventh inning of a one-run game on Opening Day, Jones turned off his television and walked out of the room. But with the suspense still eating at him, he picked up his phone moments later and was thrilled to see Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson had combined to escape the jam unscathed.

"It's a little different this year," Jones said. "These guys went down to Miami and played a great series down there and went 3-0. Hopefully they can ride that momentum and keep things going."

Jones attended Friday night's home opener against the Mets to partake in the pregame ceremony that recognized the start of the Braves' 50th season in Atlanta. He received a rousing ovation during this ceremony, which also featured appearances by former owner Bill Bartholomay, Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, Bobby Cox, Sid Bream, Fred McGriff and team president John Schuerholz, who threw the ceremonial first pitch with Cox standing in the batter's box.

The top overall selection in the 1990 Draft, Jones played his entire career in the Braves' organization and played in more games (2,499) than any other player in Atlanta Braves history (which dates back to 1966).

Thus, it should not be too surprising that Jones kept himself very interested in the club's massive roster reconstruction process that was extended this past Sunday, when Craig Kimbrel was traded to the Padres in a deal that was made because San Diego was willing to eat the remainder of the $46.3 million Melvin Upton Jr. is owed over the next three years.

"Unfortunately, there were a couple [signings] the Braves were having a hard time getting out from under," Jones said. "It took a chip like having Craig Kimbrel from getting out from under those signs. I think the big thing the Braves wanted to get done this offseason was to rebuild that Minor League system. We used to have such a great Minor League feeder system up to the Major Leagues, and we had kind of lost that over the last couple years.

"When you think about what John Hart and the brass were trying to accomplish this offseason, they accomplished all their goals, and it took them up until Opening Night to do that. I like the direction in which we're headed. I think we're a lot better set up for long-term success now than we were four or five months ago."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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