KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - For the first time this spring, Chipper Jones' knee felt fine.
The only time he flinched was rounding first after hitting a two-run homer that led the Atlanta Braves to a 6-4 win over the New York Mets on Saturday.
He didn't mind.
``Anytime you hit a bomb like that everything feels good,' Jones said. ``It was good for my confidence. This is the first day I haven't felt pain since I got (to spring training). It feels as good as it did pre-injury.'
Jones said he wondered how it would feel making the turn after passing first base and said he is feeling fine for the first time since tearing his ACL last August, ending his season - and, for a moment, he thought possibly his career.
Jones played third base for the second time this spring and fielded one routine groundball. He is looking forward to making a play that would really test his knee.
``I'm still waiting for that first big play on defense,' Jones said. ``I felt great in the field and in my at_bats. I don't have the first step explosion yet but I am going fast and I feel like I used to.'
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez thought Jones looked like the player he watched across the field during his 3 1/2-year stint with the Marlins before taking the Braves job this spring.
``There are going to be good days for him and some days when he'll have to live with it,' Gonzalez said. ``He's looking like he's ready.'
Braves starter Derek Lowe also looks as if he's ready for opening day. He extended his scoreless spring streak to five innings over two starts, striking out two without allowing a hit. Lowe said he was feeling a little gutsier than he should so early in the spring, throwing a few more curveballs than usual.
``Today was a good outing,' Lowe said. ``You have a plan coming into these games, but you still have to compete when you get out there. I threw more curves, but everyone in this game gets competitive.'
Mets projected opening day starter Mike Pelfrey gave up two runs - one earned - in three innings. Mets manager Terry Collins was impressed by Pelfrey.
``I think he's right on track,' Collins said. ``He was down in the zone. I'm happy with the way he threw.'
Pelfrey said he threw as well as he has all spring. He had his sinker working and feels like a different pitcher than the one who went 15-9 last season.
``This year I know what I'm doing,' Pelfrey said. ``This year I am just trying to build my arm strength. I'll be ready by opening day.'
The Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead off Pelfrey and added three more in the fifth before the Mets closed the gap to 5-4, but the Braves bullpen held the lead. Randall Delgado picked up the save for the Braves.
NOTES: Braves OF Jason Heyward took batting practice and is expected to play on Sunday. He has been struggling with a strained groin. ... It wasn't unexpected that Jones would hit his first homer since surgery against the Mets. He's hit 44 off of the Mets in his career. ... Gonzalez raved about OF Nate McLouth who boosted his spring average to .462 with a bunt single. ... RHP Scott Proctor lowered his spring ERA to 9.00 with a scoreless inning. Gonzalez said he has no worries about Proctor, who allowed three earned runs in his first two innings this spring. ... RHP Matt Harvey, the Mets No. 1 pick in last June's draft, saw his first action, striking out two batters in one inning against Team Italy. Former Mets catcher Mike Piazza is Italy's hitting coach. A squad of Mets minor leaguers beat Italy 8-1.
The Associated Press News Service
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