WASHINGTON – As expected, the Braves placed Jair Jurrjens on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, choosing to spot start Mike Minor on Wednesday against the Brewers and play it cautiously with Jurrjens.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed Sunday Jurrjens suffered a right oblique strain in his March 24 spring training outing against the Blue Jays, which Jurrjens originally characterized as a cramp.
The DL stint is retroactive to March 25, which would make Jurrjens eligible to pitch next weekend against the Phillies, but the Braves want him to work his way back up to a full load with some minor league action. They don’t project him to return to the rotation until April 16 against the Mets at the earliest.
“He’s a big part of our rotation,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a competitor and he wants to be out there. You just never know. You can have all the bullpens you want. When you’re facing a different color uniform and a real game situation, you don’t know how that injury is going to react.”
Gonzalez is also concerned about what effect it might have on the Braves bullpen if Jurrjens has to leave a game after two or three innings.
“Maybe the night before the pen gets blown out because something happened and now you get set back by three or four days,” Gonzalez said.
Jurrjens lasted only one inning in that March 24 game against the Blue Jays, which means in effect he would have pitched only one competitive inning in 18 days if he had started Wednesday in Milwaukee.
Jurrjens threw his second bullpen in four days Sunday, this time a 10-minute session. He’s scheduled to throw three or four innings a simulated game in Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday (Gwinnett’s season doesn’t start until Thursday). Jurrjens would then pitch five or six innings in Gwinnett’s game on Monday, April 11. If all goes well, he’ll be ready to debut the following Saturday against the Mets.
Jurrjens missed nearly three months of action last season between hamstring and knee problems. He also opened camp last year with some shoulder soreness. The Braves don’t want him to start 2011 with something that could linger.
Jurrjens was originally scheduled to pitch Monday against the Brewers, so this DL stint will cost him two starts. But Gonzalez said that’s better than the alternative.
“He still has 31, 32 left,” Gonzalez said. “I’d rather have that, than him trying to make this start and the next thing you know he misses 10.”
Beachy packs new slider for Monday start
Brandon Beachy might be making only his fourth major league start Monday in Milwaukee, but he’s got to feel like a grizzled veteran with all the time to prepare this go-around.
Unlike last September when Beachy was thrown into the middle of the pennant race with the Phillies – for an emergency start at Citizens Bank Park in his debut – he’s had an entire spring training to prepare.
“Being in my routine is the way I’m going to be the most successful,” said Beachy, who went 0-2 despite a 3.00 ERA in three September starts. “To be set in that, I feel, gives me a better chance to go out and be sharp….I feel ready.”
Beachy beat out Mike Minor for the fifth starter’s spot in spring training by showing the same command and mound presence that got him up to the big leagues in such a key situation last year. The time has also allowed him to develop a better feel for his slider, which givens him a second breaking pitch to go with his curveball.
Beachy said he threw it in bullpens last year in the minor leagues and occasionally in games but came in determined to perfect it this spring.
“I came in, knowing the only way to get to a point where I can rely on it is if I use it, and I started using it,” he said. “I feel pretty comfortable with it.”
By March 19, his first of two spring training starts against the Tigers’ regular lineup, he was mixing it in with his curveball to get key outs.
“He knows how to add and subtract really well,” his catcher Brian McCann said that day. “He could throw one slider at 81 (mph) and he can throw one at 85. That’s the sign of a mature pitcher who knows what he’s doing.”
Beachy said he hasn’t had any of the problems some pitchers do with getting a feel for two different breaking pitches.
“I throw my curveball so differently, it doesn’t really affect me,” Beachy said. “I try to throw (my slider) like my fastball until the very end, just finish with a little more pressure on my middle finger.”
Minor rejoins Braves for fill-in assignment
Nine days after Mike Minor lost the No. 5 starter’s job and was optioned to Triple-A, he flew to Washington to join the Braves’ starting rotation.
The left-hander will fill in for injured Jair Jurrjens on Wednesday against the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Braves say they’ll probably need Minor for just one start, but no more than two, before Jurrjens (oblique strain) is ready to come off the disabled list.
“I’m just here to help the team,” said Minor, who flew to Washington on Saturday and reported to the ballpark Sunday morning. A couple of teammates’ heads turned when he casually walked past them in Braves workout gear.
“What happened?” Chipper Jones said to teammate Martin Prado, neither Braves player aware that Jurrjens had been DL’d and Minor recalled.
“Hopefully J.J. gets better within a week, two weeks,” Minor said. “I’m not sure how serious the injury is. He told me he’s doing OK and they’re just going to make sure.”
Minor competed with friend Brandon Beachy and veteran Rodrigo Lopez for the fifth-starter job during spring training. Minor and Beachy both pitched well, but Beachy was better in his last couple of starts and won the job.
The two will share an apartment in Atlanta this season, and Beachy had said they hoped to be in the Braves’ rotation together at some point. They didn’t think it’d be this soon, though. Beachy starts Monday at Milwaukee, after moving up to Jurrjens’ fourth spot.
Minor went 3-2 with a 5.98 ERA in nine games for the Braves last season after being called from Gwinnett to replace injured starter Kris Medlen in August. Minor, a 2009 first-round draft pick, said he’s more prepared to pitch in the majors this time.
“I feel more confortable just walking around the clubhouse, knowing where things are, what to do, how to act,” said the 23-year-old Tennesseean. “Just more comfortable being around the guys, and I feel a lot better [physically] this year than I did last year.
“Last year it was at the end of the year and I wasn’t feeling good. Now it’s the beginning of the year and I feel pretty good, free fresh. Hopefully I just go out there and perform how I know I’m can.” — David O’Brien
Notable: Matt Young made his major league debut as a pinch-runner in the six-run eighth inning, after Chipper Jones doubled. Brian McCann singled on the next pitch, scoring Young from second base. Young stayed in and finished the game in left field. -- David O’Brien
Teheran, Proctor to open in Triple-A Gwinnett
Braves stud pitching prospect Julio Teheran will open the season in Triple-A Gwinnett. He headlines the opening day roster announced Sunday.
Teheran, 20, is rated the No. 5 prospect by Baseball America. Some projected he might open in Double-A Mississippi by virtue of the fact that he made only seven starts there last season, but after an impressive spring training the Braves decided to give Teheran his first taste of Triple-A competition.
After watching Teheran and some of the Braves other top young pitchers in spring training, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez came away confident Teheran could have an impact at the major league level this season.
“The (Arodys) Vizccainos, Teheran, the (Jairo) Ascencios, the (Juan) Abreus – not only do they have great arms and light up the radar, they threw the ball over the plate,” Gonzalez said. “They threw strikes. So you feel like OK, these guys can help us if something crazy happens.”
Also on the pitching staff in Gwinnett is Scott Proctor, whom the Braves released at the end of spring training when he lost out in the competition for the final bullpen spot to Cristhian Martinez.
Proctor had signed a non-guaranteed $750,000 contract, and by virtue of being released by March 28 the Braves only had to pay him 45 days’ termination pay. They re-signed him to a minor league contract, giving him another shot to return to form he had pre-2009 elbow reconstruction surgery.
Also on the Gwinnett roster: Pitchers (12): RH Juan Abreu, RH Jairo Asencio, LH Yohan Flande, RH Cory Gearrin, RH Rodrigo Lopez, RH Stephen Marek, LH Mike Minor, RH Scott Proctor, RH Todd Redmond, RH Julio Teheran, RH Jacob Thompson, LH Anthony Varvaro.
Infielders (6): Shawn Bowman, Mauro Gomez, Diory Hernandez, Ed Lucas, Joe Mather, Daniel Nelson.
Outfielders (4): Willie Cabrera, Jose Constanza (L), Wilkin Ramirez, and Jordan Schafer. Catchers (2): J.C. Boscan, Wilkin Castillo.
*Minor is listed on Gwinnett’s opening day roster because he was originally assigned there. But Minor has been called up to Atlanta to make a spot start Wednesday in Milwaukee in place of the injured Jair Jurrjens (oblique), who was just placed on the disabled list Sunday.