Jurrjens pleased with spring debut
Right-hander throws two innings in rain-shortened game
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens had waited long enough to pitch and, with a little help from the weather gods, the Braves right-hander was one of the few Major Leaguers in Florida who had the opportunity to feel like he truly accomplished something on Friday.
Jurrjens' scheduled Grapefruit League season debut on Thursday night was nixed by rain, and it appeared the young hurler might once again be victimized by the elements on Friday. But with an assist from Mother Nature, the rain subsided just long enough for him to complete his scheduled two innings against the Pirates.
"It was good just to see how the shoulder is feeling and pitch in a live game," said Jurrjens, who surrendered one hit and recorded a strikeout in two scoreless innings of a game that was called after three innings because of rain.
When Jurrjens reported to Spring Training with inflammation around his right shoulder, there was certainly some cause for concern. During his successful sophomore season last year, he had gone 14-10 and posted a 2.60 ERA, which stood as the National League's third-best mark.
But Jurrjens has realized steady progress over the past two weeks and, when finally provided a chance to pitch in a game, he showed no signs of rust. The 24-year-old began the game by getting Andrew McCutchen to look at three consecutive strikes and exited it having been tainted only by Ryan Doumit's second-inning leadoff single.
"J.J. was very impressive," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He threw all of his pitches in two innings. He had great life on the fastball and a really good changeup. He struck out a hitter on a nice slider."
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Jurrjens was encouraged by the bite he was able to create with his slider, a pitch that has proven to be inconsistent for him during his first two full seasons at the Major League level. But more than anything, he was happy about the fact that he was able to take yet another step without feeling any of the discomfort that had rested in the front of his right shoulder just a couple of weeks ago.
"It felt awesome," Jurrjens said. "I felt really great. I felt like all of my control was there and every pitch was like doing what I wanted it to do. I was happy with it."
After completing an eight-pitch first inning, Jurrjens was happy about the way his shoulder reacted after resting and returning to the mound to start the second inning. He ended up throwing 18 of his 29 pitches for strikes.
"I just wanted to throw strikes," Jurrjens said. "My main concern was to throw strikes and make it through it as quick as I could."
Because Thursday's game forced his debut back one day, Jurrjens will now be slated to pitch with one less day of rest against the Marlins on Tuesday. As long as he is able to return to the stadium on Saturday without any discomfort, he doesn't believe this will be a problem.
"It all depends on how I bounce back tomorrow," said Jurrjens, who is scheduled to make his regular-season debut against the Cubs on April 7.
While every other Grapefruit League game in Florida was cancelled on Friday, the Braves wanted to take advantage of the small window that provided Jurrjens just enough time to complete this outing. The start of the game was delayed 30 minutes, and the second of the day's three delays occurred with one out in the bottom of the second inning.
"It worked out good," Cox said. "This was the best we could make of it today."
Because Tommy Hanson was already warmed up and prepared to enter the game in the third inning, the Braves had him simulate his four scheduled innings while pitching against teammates in the covered batting cages located beyond the left-center field wall.
Cox reported that Hanson threw 66 pitches during this session. The tall right-hander will be scheduled to throw between 70-80 pitches when he returns to the mound to face the Marlins on Wednesday in Jupiter, Fla.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.