PHILADELPHIA – The Braves don’t know if they’ll get Tommy Hanson or Jair Jurrjens back in their starting rotation before or during the postseason, but developments Sunday and Monday at least gave them some hope.
Jurrjens flew to Colorado over the weekend for a second opinion on his injured right knee from Dr. Richard Steadman, who concurred with the original diagnosis of a bone bruise and no other structural damage.
However, Jurrjens said he was advised not to throw off a mound for another two weeks, which would make it difficult for the right-hander to prepare and show he’s ready for the first round of the playoffs that starts Oct. 1.
“He’s going to try a different brace and continue his rehab and try to get back on the mound,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I don’t know when that would be, as far as the timeline.”
Hanson could be back sooner. The right-hander, on the disabled list recovering from a small undersurface rotator-cuff tear in his pitching shoulder, reported no discomfort during a long-toss workout Tuesday that included two sets of 30 throws each from 120 feet.
That was followed by a brief session of flat-ground throws simulating pitching from the stretch.
“It feels fine,” said Hanson, who hopes to make a minor-league rehabilitation start and then one or two major league starts before the regular season ends. “I want to get back and help the team as much as a I can. But I still feel like we’re over a week away [from a rehab start], so just try to focus on what I need to do right now.”
Hanson was encouraged that his shoulder felt so much stronger now than at a similar rehab stage following a sore shoulder in June. That was diagnosed as tendinitis, but was likely the same tear that was later discovered through a dye-contrast MRI after the pain returned.
“I’d like to get a start or two in the regular season, if I can,” he said. “We’ve just got to wait and see. I don’t want to push it like last time and then be done [because of a reinjury]. But at the same time, I don’t know to go too slow and then not have enough time to come back.
“[There is] peace of mind this time. Where last time I know something was bothering me, but we just didn’t know what it was. It’s definitely making me feel better that I went out and threw that much and my arm felt good.”
During his Sunday visit with Steadman in Vail, Col., Jurrjens was fitted for a knee brace that should arrive this week and ease some of pressure on the area of the bone bruise. Jurrjens, who rejoined the Braves in Philadelphia, was told to strengthen the quadriceps muscle in the next two weeks to alleviate some of the pressure in the joint that caused the bruise.
“I’ve got some exercises they think might help,” he said. “Right now it [quadriceps muscle] is not holding the joint apart; every time I drive [it’s banging together].”
Jurrjens had arthroscopic knee surgery on the same knee in October, after missing the Braves’ late-September stretch drive and first-round playoff loss. He hopes he doesn’t miss the postseason again this year, and Gonzalez mentioned the possibility of having Jurrjens pitch in the team’s instructional league in late September, since minor league seasons will be over.
Depth has kept Braves afloat
Jurrjens and Hanson were the Braves’ best starters in the first half, combining for a 22-7 record and 2.15 ERA in 33 starts before the All-Star break. They have only one win apiece since the break, for a combined 2-6 record and 6.75 ERA in just12 starts.
The Braves have relied on pitching depth in the minor leagues to maintain a lead in the National League wild-card race, relying on rookie left-hander Mike Minor to fill in as rotation regular in recent weeks and spot starts from prospects Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran.
Gonzalez said either Teheran or Delgado would move to the bullpen after Teheran makes a spot start in Thursday’s doubleheader against the Mets, but said he wasn’t sure which it would be.
They would need three or four starters for the best-of-five division series in the first round of the playoffs, and Gonzalez was asked about the possibility of trying to make do without Hanson or Jurrjens.
The Braves have Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and rookie Brandon Beachy, and would presumably fill the fourth spot with Minor if neither Hanson nor Jurrjens was ready for the first round.
“I’m not even there yet,” Gonzalez said. “Why worry about that stuff that can change any minute. We could get Tommy back and we could get J.J. back, so why even lose sleep over that?”
He was asked which of the two, Jurrjens or Hanson, he felt more confident might return before the postseason.
“About the same,” Gonzalez said after thinking about the question for a moment. “Tommy may be closer. I don’t know. There’s nothing wrong with J.J.’s soldier.
“Hopefully we can get ‘em both back.”