WASHINGTON – Jair Jurrjens returning for a potential first-round playoff series still seemed unlikely, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez left open the possibility Sunday.
Jurrjens threw 44 pitches in three innings of an Instructional League game Saturday in Florida, his first time pitching in a game of any sort since an Aug. 30 start against Washington.
“He did OK,” Gonzalez said Sunday. “His velocity was up. Not up, but where it’s supposed to be. He was using his legs.”
Given the depleted state of the Braves pitching staff, “OK” just might be enough.
Jurrjens has been sidelined with a bone bruise in his right knee, the knee that kept him out of the 2010 postseason when he had a meniscus tear and arthroscopic surgery.
The bone bruise developed this summer and prevented him from pushing off the mound properly. Jurrjens is 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA in seven starts since the break, after going 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA before the break and making the All-Star team.
The right-hander was fitted for a custom knee brace this month and spent a couple of weeks doing specialized drills prescribed by Dr. Richard Steadman, the renowned orthopedist and “knee man” who examined Jurrjens in Vail, Colo.
Jurrjens said last week after two bullpen sessions that the knee felt stronger and more sound, and that pitching with the brave had helped restore his confidence.
Desperate times, desperate measures
Last week Gonzalez said it was doubtful that Jurrjens could make it back, at least not for the first round of the postseason. He also said several times that he wouldn’t start Jurrjens or fellow rehabbing pitcher Tommy Hanson (shoulder) in the postseason without first having them start a regular-season game to show they’re ready.
Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. These are such times for the Braves.
Hanson could start the season finale Wednesday against Philadelphia, but only if his shoulder felt good after a Sunday bullpen session and only if the Braves have clinched the wild card before Wednesday.
If they have not, then Tim Hudson would start that game on his regular rotation turn.
In an Instructional League start Thursday, Hanson had some soreness in the scapula of his troublesome pitching shoulder and was pulled as precautionary measure after throwing 41 pitches in two innings.
The right-hander is recovering from a subsurface rotator-cuff tear, and Thursday was his first time in any game since an Aug. 6 start for the Braves. He is 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, after going 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA before the break.
So what’s next for Jurrjens?
“He will throw a side [bullpen session in a couple of days], then we’ll decide whether to throw another game in Instructional League or see where we’re at,” Gonzalez said.
After first saying that both Hanson and Jurrjens could be available for Wednesday’s season finale, Gonzalez then said Jurrjens was unlikely to pitch in that game because he’d be on short rest (three days).
Gonzalez said the Braves weren’t considering Jurrjens for a postseason bullpen role.