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Chipper bashes WBC format


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Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Chipper Jones said his strained oblique muscle will be fine, but the World Baseball Classic needs changes.

The third baseman left Team USA and returned to Braves camp after aggravating the strained muscle in his right side during batting practice before Sunday’s game against the Netherlands in Miami.

“There’s some serious problems with the WBC setup,” said Jones, who will skip the rest of the tournament. “I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. But I wouldn’t do it again under the current format. There’s way too many days off. This tournament could be over by now.”

Jones was back at Braves camp Monday for treatment. He said his strain is relatively minor and he could be back in the Braves lineup by the end of the week. Braves manager Bobby Cox didn’t think Jones would be out much longer than that.

Team USA officials had planned to rest him five days, as they did after the initial injury March 8 in a game at Toronto.

“Well they kept me out five days in Canada, and I was probably ready to go on the third day,” Jones said. “They were going to do the same thing so I said, screw it, I’m coming home.

“I’d much rather be around this [braves] training staff and treat it aggressively and hopefully get back into some kind of action in two or three days.”

The 2008 National League batting champion has been away since reporting to Team USA March 2. He went 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in three games.

He said he felt fine during Saturday’s game against Puerto Rico, but felt a twinge in his side during batting practice Sunday.

“I took about 20 swings in batting practice and hit a ball about 450 feet to right-center field, and I felt it,” he said. “I stuck my thumb in it just to try and loosen it up a little bit and [hitting coach] Reggie Smith saw me and came up to me and said, ‘Don’t mess around with that thing. If you feel it, get out of there.’ “

After two more swings, Jones took his advice. After being examined in Miami, he decided to pull the plug and return to Braves camp.

He said this strain isn’t nearly as severe as others he’s had, including a left oblique strain that disabled him twice in 2006.

“They were going to be extra-cautious because it’s the second time it’s happened [in eight days],” Jones said. “And I just told [Team USA trainers] last night, if you’re not going to listen to me and you’re just going to tell me I’m going to be out for five days, I’m going home. …

“What’s five days gonna get us? Off day today, game tomorrow, game on Wednesday, and one day-long trip to L.A. … I might be ready to play the [championship] game. If they’re gonna keep me out that long, I just said, I’m going home.”

Jones, who also played in the inaugural WBC in 2006, said he won’t play again if the format isn’t changed.

“Just way too many days off,” he said. “We stayed in Toronto for a week and played three games. I don’t know if you ever stayed in Toronto, but it’s not exactly Las Vegas. To say that we were plucking our eyebrows out one at a time would be an understatement.

“You’re not getting the work in that you should. You’re getting reps, but you’re not getting the at-bats that you need.

“Getting to share a clubhouse with the guys and getting to know people on a different level is the cool part about it. But when you’re talking about a three-week tournament, and you could literally play eight games in three weeks, it’s just too much down time for spring training.”

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