BOSTON -- When Chad Durbin allowed home runs in each of his first three appearances, it was easy to understand why the Nationals released him before the end of Spring Training. Fortunately for the Braves, they did not allow this rough stretch to lead them to also release the veteran reliever.
Durbin had made 19 consecutive scoreless appearances (15 1/3 innings) before walking two of the first three batters he faced in the seventh inning of Wednesday's win over the Yankees. But to his credit, after allowing a Curtis Granderson RBI single, he kept the Braves' lead at one run by getting Alex Rodriguez to ground into a double play.
"I just think he's become more comfortable," pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "At the start of the year, he didn't know us and we didn't know him. I think he's just gotten more comfortable with us, teammates and being here."
With Jonny Venters struggling and Kris Medlen spending some time in the Minors earlier this month, Durbin took advantage of a few opportunities to prove effective in key late-inning situations. He has limited opponents to a .135 batting average and .237 on-base percentage while allowing just one run in his past 16 1/3 innings.
Simmons realizes dream of playing with Jurrjens
BOSTON -- Approximately 18 years after being introduced while growing up in Curacao, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and right-hander Jair Jurrjens finally were on the baseball field together competing for the same team.
When the 26-year-old Jurrjens returned from the Minors to make Friday night's start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the 18-year-old Simmons was thrilled to have the opportunity to play the shortstop position behind the guy that he first knew as "a solid third baseman" from his older brother's youth baseball teams.
"We played for the same organization growing up, but he was a few years older, so I never got to play in the same game as him," Simmons said. "The only time we were on the same field was in practice."
Simmons and Jurrjens were reacquainted when the young shortstop experienced his first Major League Spring Training this year, but they did not play in any exhibition games together and Jurrjens was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett approximately five weeks before Simmons made the leap from Double-A Mississippi to the Majors at the start of this month.
Simmons believes he was 4 years old when he watched his older brother Andley and Jurrjens playing together. At that time, Curacao's top product -- Andruw Jones -- was making his way through the Braves' Minor League system and establishing himself as the game's top prospect.
Valentine: Chipper always rises to the occasion
BOSTON -- Thirteen years have passed since Chipper Jones essentially secured his National League Most Valuable Player Award at the expense of a Bobby Valentine-managed Mets club, but the current Red Sox skipper hasn't forgotten what transpired during the summer of 1999.
"Chip's been a thorn in my managerial side, that's for sure," Valentine said. "I've seen him for the better part of a couple decades. I saw him always rise to the occasion. He's a special player. He's one those guys who are out there. He walked his talk and lived his dream and got everyone's attention."
Jones drilled four home runs and collected nine RBIs in the six games the Braves played against the Mets during the final month of the 1999 regular season. When the two teams matched up in the National League Championship Series, he recorded five hits, including two doubles, and drew nine walks in 29 plate appearances.
Barring a Braves-Red Sox matchup in the World Series, this weekend's series will mark the last time Jones competes against a club managed by Valentine. The 40-year-old third baseman, who will retire at the end of this season, was in Friday night's starting lineup as a designated hitter.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.