ATLANTA -- Matt Diaz did not need to be reminded that his two-run shot during Friday night's six-run fifth inning was his first home in a little more than 19 months. In fact, it did not take him long to point out that his previous one had been hit in the same inning that Brian McCann was awarded a walk-off home run after umpires used instant replay during an Aug. 29, 2010, game against the Marlins.
"I don't have that many, I remember them all," Diaz playfully said in reference to his 44 career home runs.
Diaz entered this year not expecting to get a lot of opportunities to be in the starting lineup. But with Chipper Jones dealing with his surgically repaired left knee and the Braves facing left-handed starting pitchers in five of their first seven games, the veteran outfielder has already started four games.
"While any competitor is thrilled with playing time, I know the best thing for us this year is for me to play as little as possible," Diaz said. "It's weird to say. But that is the way our team is designed and needs to be designed."
The opportunity to play on a regular basis over the past week could benefit Diaz as he prepares to spend most of his time this year serving as a pinch-hitter who could occasionally be in the lineup against left-handed starting pitchers. He has batted .154 (2-for-13) and drawn three walks in his first 16 plate appearances.
"The average isn't where I want it, but the at-bats are," Diaz said. "I don't remember the last time I had three walks in a month. I'm having good at-bats and I feel good. But I know my role on this team, and that is the less I start, the better the team is."
Chipper remains hopeful for Sunday return
ATLANTA -- With some swelling still around his surgically repaired left knee, Chipper Jones was limited to potential pinch-hit duties on Saturday night. But the Braves' third baseman remains hopeful to return to the lineup for Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Brewers.
Jones missed Friday night's home opener because too much fluid had built around his left knee. There was a fear that the swelling could lead him to strain his quadriceps muscle. The fluid was drained during the game and he was able to take some swings in the batting cage a short time later.
As Jones stood near Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez with his batting gloves on during Friday's decisive eighth inning, he served as a decoy when Dan Uggla batted with one out and runners at second and third base. Instead of taking the chance of seeing Jones come to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, the Brewers pitched to Uggla, who responded by producing a game-winning two-run single.
"Keeping everybody guessing," said a smiling Gonzalez, who would have likely put Juan Francisco at third base and moved Martin Prado to left field if he had actually ended up sending Jones to the plate.
While Jones was disappointed to miss the final home opener of his career, he does not regret returning to the lineup just 15 days after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Jones was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, and a few hours later Gonzalez was talking about how the veteran third baseman almost single-handedly accounted for that night's win over the Astros.
Jones' two-hit performance in Wednesday night's win extended the momentum for the Braves, who won a third straight game while he rested during Friday night's home opener. The club lost the only four games it had played before he was activated from the disabled list.
"We got two wins and I was able to contribute," Jones said. "The last three [games] we've scored 22 runs. I'd say it was good, and the guys have some confidence now and I'm on the brink of being able to play full time."
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers outfielder Corey Hart are among the baseball players who have missed one month after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Jones' decision to return two weeks earlier was based on the fact the he knew he was going to occasionally need some time off whether or not he had undergone the surgical procedure.
"I think those guys would tell you they would have been able to play a night or two," Jones said. "But it's going to come back and bite you at some point, whether it's by pulling a muscle favoring the knee or you have swelling."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.