Jurrjens regains velocity in solid start
Righty also encouraged by changeup after striking out nine
ATLANTA -- Jair Jurrjens regained the velocity that he lacked during his forgettable start against the Padres on April 12. But after completing eight strong innings during Sunday's 4-3 win over the Rockies, Jurrjens was much more encouraged about the fact that he had regained a feel for his changeup.
"The velocity is back," Jurrjens said. "I know everybody was worried about that. The thing I'm happier about is that I got my changeup back. The last two starts, I didn't have my changeup at all. Today, it felt like it was coming back. I just need to keep working on it and have a better start the next time out."
While allowing a career-high eight earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings against the Padres, Jurrjens couldn't command his changeup and found his fastball resting between 87-89 mph. This caused reason to wonder if he was bothered by his right shoulder, which had been inflamed at the beginning of Spring Training.
But while limiting the Rockies to three runs during Sunday's 108-pitch effort, Jurrjens quieted these concerns. His fastball rested between 90-92 mph and he touched 94 mph with his second-to-last pitch.
Braves manager Bobby Cox revealed that some of Jurrjens' early-season struggles could have been a product of the fact that he had bruised his right hand when he got jammed during an at-bat in Spring Training.
When asked how this affected him, Jurrjens said, "It affected everything."
Then when asked why he hadn't revealed this ailment earlier, he said, "I don't want to go out there to pitch with any excuses. If I'm out there, then I'm ready to pitch."
Lowe reflects on his no-hitter with Red Sox
ATLANTA -- Derek Lowe had gone seven years without watching the no-hitter that he threw for the Red Sox against the Rays on April 27, 2002. Then after receiving a DVD copy from Braves video coordinator Rob Smith on Saturday afternoon, the veteran right-hander opted to watch the masterpiece in its entirety.
A few hours later, the veteran right-hander was in the Braves dugout watching Ubaldo Jimenez become the first pitcher in Rockies history to throw a no-hitter.
"What are the odds?" Lowe said with a smile on Sunday morning.
Looking back on the fact that he experienced something that escaped his long-time Boston teammate Pedro Martinez and many other great pitchers, Lowe counts himself fortunate enough to have encountered one of those nights when he stood on the mound with the utmost confidence that the opposing hitters had little chance to record a hit.
"You definitely have special stuff that day," Lowe said. "[Jimenez's] ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes was so important. That goes to show you how much confidence plays a role. When I was going through it, you have that feeling that they're never going to get a hit."
Lowe proved to be rather efficient while displaying a flurry of sinkers during his no-hitter. He threw just 97 pitches, registered six strikeouts and issued only one walk. The much more intimidating Jimenez utilized a 100-mph fastball and a wide array of darting offspeed pitches to escape the early jams he created while issuing each of his six walks through the first five innings.
Then after going to the stretch, Jimenez needed just 45 pitches to complete the final four innings of his 128-pitch gem.
"It's a day I'll never forget," Lowe said. "He'll be able to remember the last two innings and pretty much recite it pitch for pitch."
Lowe is among the many Braves who believe this might not have been the last time that Jimenez is able to feel the euphoria created by the completion of a no-hitter.
"I mean, come on, he throws a 90-mph changeup," Lowe said. "I don't throw 90 mph on a good day."
Braves not getting much from leadoff spot
ATLANTA -- When football teams utilize more than one quarterback, it's often said that this is a sign that they truly don't have a quarterback. While utilizing three different leadoff hitters through the first 12 games of this season, Braves manager Bobby Cox has indicated something that statistics will strongly support.
But while finishing a homer short of the cycle during Sunday's 4-3 win over the Rockies, Matt Diaz at least halted -- for the moment -- the struggles of the Braves' leadoff hitters. His three hits matched the total Cox had received from his leadoff hitters through the season's first 10 games.
Entering this series finale, Braves leadoff hitters were batting .065 (3-for-46) with a .185 on-base percentage.
"I was aware that's how many I had this year myself," said Diaz, who entered the game with just three hits in 22 at-bats this year. "But no, I wasn't aware that's what the leadoff hitters had all year. I had to make some personal adjustments and it worked out today."
It appears Cox may at least continue to utilize Diaz in the leadoff role when opposing teams are starting a left-handed pitcher. The veteran outfielder experienced some success in the short stint he spent at the top of the lineup during the latter stages of the 2009 season.
Switch-hitter Melky Cabrera assumed the leadoff role after Nate McLouth hit just .118 during Spring Training. As the Braves leadoff hitter this year, Cabrera has hit .077 (2-for-26) with four walks and a .200 on-base percentage.
McLouth has hit just .091 (1-for-11) and compiled a .267 on-base percentage in the limited time he has spent at the top of the Braves' lineup this year.
Venters gets pranked before callup
ATLANTA -- Jonny Venters can thank Triple-A Gwinnett pitching coach Derek Botelho for helping him utilize the sinker that allowed him to make such a strong impression during his first Major League Spring Training this year. The 25-year-old left-handed reliever can also thank Botelho for what he can only hope will be the last prank he experienced at the Minor League level.
Before Gwinnett's game on Friday night, Botelho found Venters and simply informed him that he was being moved to a relief role. About 10 minutes later, Gwinnett's manager Dave Brundage ended the prank by telling the southpaw that his time in the bullpen would now be spent with the Major Leaguers in Atlanta.
"They didn't make me wait too long," Venters said. "They just said you're going to the bullpen and I said, 'OK that's cool.' Then they told me what was really going on."
Venter's easy-going personality may have been a benefit on Saturday night, when he allowed one hit and tossed three scoreless innings against the Rockies in his Major League debut. Still, while he may have looked relaxed while throwing his hard sinker, the young hurler was visibly still overwhelmed with excitement on Sunday morning.
"The whole experience was just awesome," Venters said. "I didn't sleep a whole lot last night."
Cox takes interest in 20-inning game
ATLANTA -- While driving home after watching his team get victimized by Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter Saturday, Braves manager Bobby Cox listened to the final stages of the 20-inning inning game that was being staged by the Cardinals and Mets in St. Louis.
"I called my wife and told her she had to find it on TV somewhere," Cox said with an excited tone on Sunday morning. "I told her they're going to something like the 20th inning."
Cox has experienced a handful of no-hitters during his long managerial career. But given the choice, he said he would rather watch something like the mental battle that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Mets manager Jerry Manuel waged while their two teams remained scoreless through the first 18 innings. The Mets eventually won the 20-inning affair, 2-1.
"I would have much rather seen that than a no-hitter," Cox said. "Just think about how many chances those teams had to score a run."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.