PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As he progressed through Friday afternoon's six-inning effort against the Mets, Jair Jurrjens felt like he was struggling to release the baseball in a smooth manner, and he was consequently losing some life on his fastball.
There's a chance this could have simply been a product of the fact that he was pitching six innings for the first time since Sept. 4, 2010. But given the fact that he has also struggled to get his arm to feel loose in other exhibition starts this year, the Braves right-hander has decided he should cut back on his weightlifting activities.
Jurrjens has been lifting weights in the hopes of providing his shoulder the strength and endurance it needs for the long season. But he's starting to think these exercises might be counterproductive.
"You want to make sure your shoulder is going to be ready for the long season," Jurrjens said. "Sometimes, you just have to know your body and just give it a break."
Jurrjens proved perfect with six groundouts through the first three innings Friday. He allowed a couple of sharp singles to skip through the infield in the fourth inning and made a mistake on a fastball that David Wright drilled for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
But overall, Jurrjens seemed pleased after allowing three runs -- two earned -- and five hits in six innings. The 25-year-old right-hander will make two more starts during the exhibition season before making his regular-season debut in Milwaukee on April 4.
Eager Chipper ready for season to start
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At the start of Spring Training, some still wondered whether Chipper Jones' surgically repaired left knee would be strong enough for him to begin the regular season as the Braves' third baseman.
With Opening Day still a little less than two weeks away, Jones believes he has already proven to himself and his club that he is indeed ready. The 38-year-old third baseman is happy with the way he is swinging the bat, and even more thrilled about the fact that it has been a little more than three weeks since he could even categorize his left knee as being "cranky."
"I'm not even thinking about the knee, because it's not an issue," Jones said. "I have no pain in the knee whatsoever. I would love to really open up and go from first to home on a double while I'm down here. I feel like I turned a corner about 2 1/2 weeks ago with my knee. I'm just really excited to get this season started right now -- right now."
2010 Spring Training - Atlanta Braves
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Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
After watching Jones sparkle during Thursday night's 7-6 win over the Nationals, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez echoed Jones' wish. The veteran third baseman barehanded a Mike Morse grounder and made a pinpoint throw across the diamond to end the top of the third inning. Then, showing quick reflexes, he pushed off his left leg and snared a Jesus Flores liner in the seventh inning.
Jones also drilled a third-inning homer to dead center and pulled a fifth-inning RBI double into the right-center-field gap.
"He really is moving good," Gonzalez said. "I wish the season started tomorrow."
Given he was less than seven months removed from having his torn ACL repaired, Jones wasn't surprised or discouraged when he didn't record an extra-base hit in his first 15 at-bats this exhibition season. But he does seem to be surprised about how quickly he seemed to gain comfort from both the left and right side of the plate.
While recording nine hits, including four doubles and two homers, in his past 15 at-bats, he has improved his Grapefruit League batting average to .386 and, more importantly, given himself some confidence as the regular season nears.
"From day one, I wasn't getting any hits," Jones said. "I wasn't lining any balls, but I was hitting the ball on the barrel. I just needed to let [the pitches] travel a little deeper and turn those ground balls, line drives, fly balls into deep fly balls. I don't know what happened. I guess I just came to the park one day and it clicked."
Fredi not worried about Conrad's errors
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Whenever Brooks Conrad commits two errors like he did against the Mets on Friday afternoon, there will be numerous references to the defensive nightmare he experienced at the end of last season.
But as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez looked back on the 3-0 loss to the Mets, he definitely didn't seem concerned about the way Conrad had played defense at second base. In fact, he seemed to think the official scorer was the one who made the miscues.
"What are you going to do?" Gonzalez said. "The guy is trying to make plays and get outs. Those two errors today, I'm not even worried about."
The first error charged to Conrad came after he ranged to his right and lunged before deflecting a grounder hit by the speedy Jose Reyes. The other occurred in the sixth, when he charged an Angel Pagan grounder and then made an errant underhand toss as he attempted to retire the speedy outfielder.
"He's making plays," Gonzalez said. "He's aggressive. They're not easy plays."
Conrad, who has made four errors this spring, remains a top candidate to earn one of the final available spots on the Opening Day roster. He appears to be fighting right-handed-hitting outfielder Wilkin Ramirez for one of the last bench roles.
The Braves will have to decide whether they're better served having Ramirez around to serve as a backup outfielder or keeping Conrad to serve as an extra infielder and possibly rekindle some of the magic he had as a pinch-hitter last year.
Smoltz gets sponsor's exemption for golf event
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- John Smoltz will compete in the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic on a sponsor's exemption. The event will be held April 28-May 1 at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, Ga.
This will be the first professional tour event for Smoltz, who has long aspired to play on the Senior Tour, which is reserved for individuals who have already celebrated their 50th birthday.
Smoltz, who will turn 44 on May 15, wants to get a sense of what it feels like to be in an event like this. He got a taste of it last year, when he competed in the Georgia Open and in a qualifier for the U.S. Open.
The Nationwide Tour is reserved for young professionals who aspire to qualify for the PGA Tour.
"I don't want to step on anyone's toes," Smoltz said on the Golf Channel earlier this week. "I'm not looking to take anybody's spot who is aspiring to be a Tour professional. I have a lot of respect for everybody who does what they do on the Nationwide Tour."
Smoltz ended a storied 21-season pitching career at the end of the 2009 season. He began broadcasting duties with MLB Network and Turner Sports last year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.