Perfecting a final approach

Updated: March 2, 2011, 2:49 PM ET
By Buster Olney

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins played in an interleague series in June, a time for Chipper Jones and Jim Thome to get together and chat and complain the way a lot of old people complain -- like two old grannies, Jones joked Tuesday.

Jones was hitting .228 at the time and Thome wasn't playing that much, and Jones said based on that conversation, he would have bet that neither one of them would have been playing this year. But Thome had a great finish and re-signed with the Twins, and Jones dug himself out of his early-season slump, rekindling his own belief in himself, before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Jones would like to play in 135 to 140 games, something he has done once in the past seven years, but he seems to have reached a point in his career -- as Thome has -- at which he believes that getting occasional rest helps him be more effective. "It gives you a better opportunity to stay healthy," Jones said. "When you're healthy you can do everything. … When you throw us [older players] in there, we get tired and we get nicked up, and maybe some of the consistency goes away. I'm certainly a heck of a lot more refreshed if I get a day off every six or seven games, or a day off every 10 games.

"I'm a realist, and sometimes I'm not going to be able to go."

Neither Jones nor Thome has announced exactly when he is retiring, but it would appear there is a chance that they could be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time, given that both are generally regarded as slam-dunk candidates. If this happens, Jones should tell this story, within his speech, that he told Wednesday about an on-field fight in which Thome and he wound up squaring off:

"My first brawl in professional ball was against Charlotte," Jones recalled. "He and Manny [Ramirez] and those guys were in Charlotte. And we cleared the benches, and he and I came across each other in the melee, and the next thing I know I was pinned up against the backstop, with my face up against the screen. And I looked over, and my mom and dad are like three rows away from me, and they had the look of horror. It was one of those moments when you just kind of cry for help, because once he got his big paws on me I was done. … He was like, 'Don't move, Chip. I will squash the life out of you.'"

Through the years, Jones and Thome have become friends from across the field, when they played against each other in the World Series in 1995, during spring training when Thome was with the Indians in Winter Haven, Fla., and during Thome's years with the Phillies.

"For a while we were the only guys who wore our uniforms with the socks showing," Jones said. "Not a better guy on the planet."


• Chipper Jones will be back at third base Friday, probably.

• The Tigers ran through a full infield the other day, including all of the outfielders taking turns throwing to each of the bases, and over and over Magglio Ordonez whipped the ball with unusual power and accuracy to each of the bases -- and apparently, as this went on, Ordonez said something out loud and in jest to someone who was watching from outside the foul lines. A Hall of Famer. Al Kaline, who was known to have one of the best arms of his generation.