Jones returns after eight-game absence; Kotsay comes off DL

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones, expected to be placed on the disabled list Tuesday, instead was back in the lineup for the Atlanta Braves.

Jones missed eight straight starts with a strained right quadriceps. Because of the continued discomfort, Jones feared he would be placed on the DL as the Braves opened an important series against the NL East-leading Phillies on Tuesday night.

Jones, who leads the major leagues with his .394 batting average, said he was "very surprised" he didn't feel the expected discomfort while stretching and then running before the game.

"It's huge," Jones said. "It's probably nine games I don't have to miss.

"There's no way I'm going to go on the DL right now. I'm not going to come in today and be 75 or 80 percent and sit out. I'm sorry, it's not going to happen."

Manager Bobby Cox made plans for the possibility of placing Jones and infielder Omar Infante (hamstring) on the disabled list. Neither move was necessary. Infante also felt better Tuesday and said he could play if needed.

The Braves also activated Mark Kotsay, who started in center field.

Jones aggravated the quadriceps injury on June 20. He appeared in three games as a pinch-hitter, collecting two hits, but couldn't follow through with his hopes to play as the designated hitter in the team's three-game visit to Toronto.

The Braves could have more good news this week. Cox said shortstop Yunel Escobar, who has missed five games with a jammed left shoulder, could start Wednesday.

Jones said that after he concluded he was healthy enough to avoid the disabled list, it was an easy decision to tell Cox he wanted to start. Jones passed that word to Cox at the start of batting practice, but Cox waited until after the session to change his lineup.

"I said when I could get to 75, 80 percent that I wanted to get back in there because I wouldn't embarrass myself out there on the basepath," Jones said. "I can do all the other stuff, no problem. I got there today."

When asked if it was important to have Jones back against the Phillies, Cox said "We could use him against everybody, him and Escobar. Infante, too."

Jones said the timing was nice. Despite the team's injuries, the Braves began the series only four games behind the Phillies, who swept three games in Atlanta on June 6-8.

"We've got the number one team in the division here going head to head," Jones said. "They waxed us pretty good a couple of weeks ago. We've got to play better."

Kotsay has missed 33 games since May 26 with a lower back strain. He came off the disabled list after hitting .333 in five games in an injury rehabilitation stint with Double-A Mississippi.

"It was a long process," Kotsay said. "It's all well worth it once you get back contributing a little bit."

The Braves optioned outfielder Brandon Jones, who was only 5-for-33 in his last 10 games, to Triple-A Richmond to clear a spot for Kotsay.

Rookie Gregor Blanco, who had been the primary fill-in starter for Kotsay in center field, remained in the lineup in left field as the leadoff hitter.

Rookie Brent Lillibridge made another start for Escobar at shortstop.