JJ feels unwanted by Atlanta
From Schultz at AJC---
Jurrjens feels ‘not wanted’ by Braves, struggles don’t help
10:38 pm June 1, 2012, by Jeff Schultz
Jair Jurrjens still didn't feel right when he reported to spring training. (Jason Getz/AJC)
When the Braves sent pitcher Kris Medlen to the minors a few days ago, significantly different conversations were going on in the clubhouses involved.
At Turner Field, the talk centered on how quickly Medlen could “stretch out” his arm and transition from reliever to starter, thereby rescuing the team’s rotation. At the minor league confines of Coolray Field in Gwinnett, the questions centered on whether this unofficially signaled the end of Jair Jurrjens’ career as a Brave.
“I understand it’s a business, and they need to do what they need to do,” said Jurrjens, less than a year removed from being an All-Star. “But you have feelings, and it hurts when you feel like you’re not wanted somewhere.”
And that’s what it feels like?
“If I say no, I’m lying. When you’re doing good, everybody loves you. When you’re doing bad, everybody hates you.
“You hear stuff. When the Medlen stuff happened, people around here, my teammates, were like, ‘Wow, they didn’t even think to call you back up?’ People were asking me, ‘Did they say anything to you?’ It just shows me what I mean to them. It doesn’t feel good, but that’s OK. It’s business.”
Few athletes have suffered such a dramatic career U-turn as Jurrjens. At this time a year ago, he was among the better pitchers in baseball. He went 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 16 starts in the first half of the season and was selected to the All-Star game. He was the National League’s pitcher of the month for May after posting a 1.65 ERA in six starts. He was the first Braves starter since Greg Maddux (1994) to start the season with 11 consecutive “quality” starts. His ERA through those 11 starts: 1.82.
Only a year ago, general manager Frank Wren was handing Jair Jurrjens the N.L.'s pitcher of month award for May. (Jason Getz/AJC)
Then came the slide. Jurrjens’ right knee began to hurt (he had arthroscopic surgery in October). He lost strength in his leg. He altered his delivery to try to compensate and messed up his mechanics. He made only seven starts in the second half, going 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA. The problems carried over into this season. Jurrjens made four starts lasting a combined 16 1/3 innings (0-2, 9.37) before being optioned to Gwinnett.
Being sent down wasn’t traumatic for Jurrjens. To the contrary: “It was easier to accept because I knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing to help the team out, and I needed to work to get my strength back in my leg. It was probably the best thing that happened to me.”
But what now?
Jurrjens believes he has made progress. Leg strength has come back. Pitching velocity has ticked up. It showed Sunday when he threw eight shutout innings at Rochester.
But he woke up ill Thursday. He spent much of the day passed out on a trainer’s table at the stadium, got up later only for an interview, then went home before the game.
The problem: “Everything,” he said. “Sinus, fever, stomach.”
He was still sick and looked pale Friday but decided to start anyway. Why?
“I felt committed,” he said.
The last thing he needed was for the organization to think he wouldn’t try to pitch sick. But it backfired. He had no velocity or movement on his pitches against Charlotte and was hammered for six earned runs (10 total) and 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. The fact that manager Dave Brundage left him in seemed like torture.
“I couldn’t even catch my breath,” Jurrjens said.
His strong start last week caught the attention of some scouts, but he doesn’t sense any interest from the Braves. Friday obviously didn’t help. His confidence has taken a shot.
Medlen was designated as the man on deck for the Braves’ rotation. Nor did it help when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez grew uncomfortable a few weeks ago when reporters kept asking for updates on Jurrjens’ status, and he responded: “Without making it sound cruel, he’s a minor league player right now.”
Brundage said Jurrjens’ assignment never was expected to be “short term.”
The Braves shopped Jurrjens in the winter, but his market value was down coming off the injury and a poor second half. It’s logical to assume he’s still available.
“All I can control is my performance,” he said. “If I’m not in their plans, I’ll move on. But I’m not a Triple-A pitcher.”
His first four-plus seasons in the majors indicated as much. But it has been a rough road since, and it’s clear to him now that he’s off the Braves’ radar.
Re: JJ feels unwanted by Atlanta
More on the JJ saga---
Braves say plans for Jurrjens are independent of Medlen
3:41 pm June 2, 2012, by Carroll Rogers
Washington – When the Braves sent Kris Medlen to Gwinnett to stretch out and become a starter, they did it independently of any plans they have for Jair Jurrjens, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated on Saturday.
“He’s a big part of this organization,” Gonzalez said of Jurrjens. “We’re just waiting for him to pitch two or three good ballgames, bottom line. I don’t think the Medlen thing has anything to do with him, really.”
Jurrjens told Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his start Friday night in Gwinnett, in reaction to the Medlen move, that “it hurts when you feel like you’re not wanted somewhere.”
Gonzalez said that Medlen hasn’t been guaranteed a return to the Braves rotation – that it’s a matter of performing in that role in Gwinnett – or he might come back up as a reliever.
The decision with Jurrjens is based on performance too. Jurrjens opened the season by going 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA through four starts, so the Braves sent him to Triple-A. But they’d rather he be performing in the major leagues, especially considering they’re paying him $5.5 million this season.
Jurrjens has struggled to find consistency in Gwinnett, where he is 3-3 with a 5.56 ERA in seven starts. He had his best outing since his demotion two starts ago, pitching eight shutout innings against Rochester, allowing only three hits, no walks and striking out five. He followed that up Friday night by giving 12 hits and 10 runs (six earned) in 4 2/3 innings against Charlotte, including three home runs.
Jurrjens told the AJC he had been sick for the previous two days but didn’t want to back out of Friday’s start. The reports Gonzalez got from the Gwinnett coaching staff indicated that he struggled to command his fastball.
“We’re just waiting for him to run a good string and feel like he can help us,” Gonzalez said. “When he can, we’ll move him up. It’s got nothing to do with ‘We don’t want him’ or don’t care about him, or Medlen.”
Medlen was scheduled to make his first start in Gwinnett on Saturday night against Charlotte, stretching out to about 55-60 pitches.