Jurrjens, Hudson: worried to optimistic in 2-1/2 months

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It was early December, and Jair Jurrjens wondered if his balky knee would hold up and whether he’d be traded. Fellow Braves pitcher Tim Hudson wondered which would feel normal again — his back or his stomach.

A surgeon went through Hudson’s abdomen to perform lumbar spine fusion Nov. 28.

Two and a half months later, Braves pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Sunday. Jurrjens and Hudson reported in good spirits and varying degrees of recovery.

After Jurrjens was diagnosed with a toe condition and fitted for orthotics for his shoes in December, he said his right knee improved steadily and he was encouraged and optimistic about the upcoming season.

“The first couple of months of rehab after the season, I was working out but wasn’t [progressing],” the right-hander said. “When I got that balance, I could see the improvement… If you would have asked me two months ago, I’d be nervous. But since I put [orthotics] in, I was able to start squatting, start running a little bit. Everything’s started clicking.”

Hudson will be on the disabled list when the season begins, but said his back feels better than it had for 7-8 years prior to surgery. He doesn’t have a strict timetable for recovery but might be ready sometime between late April and early May.

Once he returns, he could be back for the long haul – perhaps a few years longer than envisioned before surgery fused his L5 and S1 vertebrae.

“Honestly, I didn’t really think back surgery was something I would do during my career,” said Hudson, 36, who had pitched with a degenerative disc and worsening pain for several years, but hoped to avoid surgery at least until after he retired.

When he couldn’t bend to take off his shoes and could barely get out of bed two months after the season, Hudson said he knew it was time to reassess and have his back examined again. Surgery was recommended.

“Now that I’ve had it and I feel really good about it, I feel like I can play a long time,” he said. “ That [chronic pain] was going to be a reason why I was going to probably take it to the house [retire after his contract]…. But after getting it fixed, feeling the relief that I have just from 2-1/2 months [since surgery], it feels a thousand times better. If I want to play two, three or four more years, I feel comfortable that I can do it.”

Hudson was cleared to begin light throwing Feb. 10. He could be given the green light to throw off the mound in mid-March, but will first have more X-rays in about two weeks to make sure the fused area has continued to strengthen.

Jurrjens has no restrictions when Braves pitchers and catchers begin workouts Monday. The first full-squad workout is Saturday, but most position players have already reported and say the team’s September collapse lit a fire beneath everyone.

Jurrjens did not pitch in September, the second straight year he was sidelined by a right-knee injury during the playoff stretch drive. The Braves lost 20 of their last 30 games and missed the postseason.

“A lot of people ask me back home [in Curacao] what’s my goal for this season,” he said. “I just want to finish the season. Get that [monkey] off my back.”

As for the trade rumors that swirled around him for much of the offseason, Jurrjens said he wasn’t angry, but acknowledged being a bit stressed out.

“When your family or friends are calling you, asking you what’s going on…” said Jurrjens, who came to Atlanta in a trade from Detroit four years ago. “You know, that’s part of the business. It really didn’t bug me. Only thing that stresses you out is hearing all these rumors, you just want to know where you’re going to go. That’s it. See whether you’re going to stay or not.

“I was nervous when the rumors started – like, trying to take a nap was difficult because every time the phone rang you want to see if somebody’s calling to say you got traded.”

And now that he’s back?

“I’m cool,” he said. “I’m happy to be back with my teammates. When you get traded it’s hard, you need to learn new rules, new teammates … it’s easier when you’re with a team you know already. More relaxed.”

Jurrjens was asked if he was excited about the starting rotation and the team’s chances.

“Yeah,” he said. “If we all stay healthy, we’re going to keep the team in the race. Every team is going to have injuries, you just hope it’s short one and the guy can come back. Try to limit the injuries and I think we have a good chance.”

Hudson doesn’t feel pressured to rush his recovery because the Braves have talented young pitchers who can fill in. Prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado were to compete with Mike Minor for one rotation spot, but it looks like two could be in the opening day rotation in Hudson’s absence.

Hudson only named one young pitcher by name, and it wasn’t one of the top prospects. He nodded across the clubhouse to Kris Medlen and said the versatile starter-reliever was as good as anyone the Braves had.

By the way Dr. Steven Wray did the fusion surgery on Hudson, and Hudson made sure that Wray, an Auburn alum, remembered who else attended the university.

“I gave him a ‘War Eagle!’ when I was on the table before I went under,” Hudson said, smiling. “Oh, yeah. I said, ‘Take care of me. War Eagle, bro.’”

Wray is the same specialist who did fusion surgery on reliever Darren Holmes a decade ago, before Holmes posted a 1.81 ERA in 55 appearances for Atlanta in a career-best 2002 season at age 36.

40 comments Add your comment

Kyle

February 19th, 2012
5:18 pm

If both these guys stay healthy to the end, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But I don’t know if they can stay healthy.

BraveDan

February 19th, 2012
5:29 pm

Hopefully they both have healthy seasons.

Go Braves

February 19th, 2012
5:37 pm

If Kyle ain’t going to say it- I will FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scottbravesfan

February 19th, 2012
5:38 pm

I hope frank wren or someone on the braves over rules Fredi and doesnt let him screw up the development of Teheran or Delgado by putting them in the bullpen. It’s bad enough they are going to limit vizcaino’s development by moving him to reliever.

BravesfaninWis

February 19th, 2012
5:48 pm

Now that basically the entire team has reported and baseball is right around the corner, its hard to not get excited for the baseball season. With that said, the Braves have some holes and did nothing to address them, so this fan is just going to read the results from every game and see if they won or loss. I can’t justify paying money to watch a team that loses 20 of their last 30 games of the season and chokes away a sure playoff berth and does absolutely nothing to address that, sorry…

Also did I miss something? It said that every regular position player has been seen in camp except Bourn and Pastornicky.. Seriously, a first time starter in MLB that has done nothing really to deserve to be the starting SS of a MLB team is not at camp yet the grilled veteran Chipper Jones is there already? Damn, that doesn’t say much for this kid in my opinion. Unless I missed something on why he isn’t there, if that is the case please let me know. Otherwise, there is no excuse (except a family emergency) on why he is basically the only starting position player to not be there already when guys like Chipper, Freeman, Heyward, McCann, and Uggla are already there.

Bill

February 19th, 2012
5:49 pm

Hope they come back healthy but it won’t matter if this team can’t score runs.If Jason and Uggla have sub par years then it will all fall on McCann and teams will pitch around him.

TexasBrave

February 19th, 2012
5:52 pm

Isn’t Pastor out in Cal. with Wilson working on his defense?

Ernest

February 19th, 2012
5:57 pm

The Braves will need both guys is they plan to make the playoffs this year, especially down the stretch.

Mike Lewis

February 19th, 2012
5:57 pm

I glad someone else appreciates how good Kris Medlen was before he got hurt…I hope both the pitching coach and manager understand it as well…he was just solid when he pitched…nothing fancy but he kept hitters at bay and looked like a surgeon just doing his job with no fanfare…my kind of ballplayer. He;s our #3 at worst and should stay with us in the rotation. Trade away a prospect or two for a PROVEN hitter but leave Medlen here in the rotation. No, I’m not related to him either!

ColoradoBravesFan

February 19th, 2012
6:07 pm

BravesfaninWis ,

Like others has said, Pastornicky has been out in CA working with jack Wilson to improve his defense. Wilson has an infield in his back yard I heard…

TexasBrave

February 19th, 2012
6:10 pm

I don’t know about trading a prospect you can never have too much pitching. However, I do agree that Kris is more proven and has shown that he can go deeper into a game than the rookies. For my money, based on what they did in the past, I like Medlen and Delgado as my number 4 and 5 going into the season. However, I know the Braves love having a lefty in the rotation so they will most likely go with Minor.

garynpohio

February 19th, 2012
6:15 pm

i think the pitching is tight, so much depth they can overcome almost anything, however, if Heyward fails to play better than last year it will be too much to overcome.

Bill

February 19th, 2012
6:34 pm

Braves will need alot of hitting..Hudson can hit?

least of the east

February 19th, 2012
6:40 pm

thats right-Teheran and Delgado shouldn’t be moved to the bullpen. Vizcaino has an arm issue with a prior injury and needed an innings limit so the bullpen for him isn’t as bad.
the pitching should work out fine. it’s the offense that will cause problems-especially vs lefthanders. but even a low profile FA like Cody Ross at $3 mill was too expensive.

by the way, compare what the Yanks did with dumping AJ Burnett vs what Wren did to dump Lowe.
Yanks got 2 chances to get lucky with 2 minor leaguers plus more money per yr. than Wren got for a similar pitcher. one of the Yanks pickups throws up to 98 mph and was 12th prospect in 2011 BA Pirates top 30 list. our guy from Indians (Chris Jones) didn’t even make Tribe’s top 30.
so with Wren and Libery Media leading the way, don’t expect to go anywheres anytime soon.

RW

February 19th, 2012
6:45 pm

Guys, Medlen and Vizcaino are relievers. You ask them to be starters for a full season and they will have arm troubles. Both have problematic deliveries and arm motions/angles. Keeping them in the bullpen is the only way for them to stay healthy longterm.

If the Braves are looking for another bat, they should see what they could get for Beachy. He will need elbow surgery soon (if he hasn’t yet) and further down the line will have shoulder problems.

DOB, any details on Hanson’s new tweaked delivery? That is a huge deal if he makes the right adjustments.

Mr. Snarky

February 19th, 2012
7:09 pm

Does anyone ever say how pessimistic they are to reporters during spring training?

TexasBrave

February 19th, 2012
7:13 pm

Medlen would only be needed for the two months (at most) that Huddy would be out. Then Kris gets moved back to the pen.

Mark Duncan

February 19th, 2012
7:23 pm

I would give Medlen every opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation. Prior to his injury in 2010 he was one of our most dependable starters. That being said, the Braves really need to find the five guys who can go at LEAST six innings per start regardless of their potential or ranking on mlb.com ’s top prospects list. Struggling to get through five innings even only giving up a run or two is not going to cut it this year. While l love the depth, we need more innings per start from these pitchers and whovever can’t give the innings goes to the pen. Simple. Go Braves!

I miss Cox

February 19th, 2012
7:23 pm

Chipper was not looking exactly ripped….He won’t last 20 games.

urban redneck

February 19th, 2012
7:24 pm

my favorite part is when he explains what take it to the house means…….

i’m SO excited today–first step toward baseball. all the blood in my body has gone south of the border.

Runner-

February 19th, 2012
7:43 pm

Many questions to answer with the future of the Braves this season.

Can Jurrjens bounce back and regain his control that made him the All-Star pitcher he was?

Can Hanson’s new delivery help prevent future injuries and at the same time keep him effective?

Can Heyward and Prado regain their hitting groove and lead us into the playoffs?

Can Freeman keep up his amazing rookie season in all aspects?

Can our pitching prospects make a smooth early transition into the Major Leagues?

Can Mike Minor finally take that step into becoming the reliable left-handed starter we need?

Can our bullpen, after being used to death, be as effective as the first half last season?

Will Bourn have a great contract year and decline any Braves’ contract extension?

Will we be able to hold up with Chipper starting at 3rd?

Will this line-up provide enough power night in, night out?

Very interesting questions to be answered heading into this season.

[...] gave him a ‘War Eagle!’ when I was on the table before I went under,” Hudson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Oh, yeah. I said, ‘Take care of me. War Eagle, [...]

Mark (another one)

February 19th, 2012
8:10 pm

Chipper has never looked ripped. You guys are too use to the steroid kids. As long as Chipper keeps his weight done to protect his knees, and he maintains tone, he will hit.

BravesfaninWis

February 19th, 2012
8:52 pm

I thought I read a few weeks ago that Pastornicky was going out to Wilson’s house? How long does he need to stay out there? Isn’t there a infield where the Braves are now, and wouldn’t it look better if the rookie was in camp along with all the other guys?

IMO, that is no excuse to not be in camp when everyone else is regardless if they have until Friday or not. If Chipper, McCann, Uggla, Heyward, and Freeman are in camp early, that kid should be. If I am the other guys on this team, I am not looking at him in a positive light right about now.

Ralph

February 19th, 2012
9:19 pm

I am not the least bit worried about the pitching even if Huddy and JJ are out for the season, its hitting man, hitting. No pitching staff can go out there day after day with 2 or 3 runs and hold up through the season.

Younger Than That Now

February 19th, 2012
10:17 pm

If Medlen gets anywhere near where he was prior to his injury, he and the Braves will be fine… and I’m talking about as a starting pitcher. He was very consistent and looked awfully good. If you remember back, he was called up to start before Hanson was and once he got to Atlanta and got his first game jitters behind him, you saw exactly why… loads of talent and doesn’t seem to let the hitters get into his head. I like him a lot and think he has a very bright future ahead of him. Not to mention one of the main guys to keep everyone loose… a good guy to have on your team. There may be a problem finding a spot for all the talented arms they have, but that’s about it… and what a problem to have!

Wish I was there… GO BRAVES!

Orange Brave f/k/a Billy Jack's BBQ

February 19th, 2012
10:50 pm

Everyoned (even me) keeps forgetting about Medlen. We are so deep at pitcher…….

glord1

February 19th, 2012
11:13 pm

Chipper never comes into camp in shape. Last year was an exception because he busted his butt rehabing the knee. Hopefully he produces in the 350 ABs he gives then. He is the reason that Prado should never have been traded.

Medlin is one of the most underated pitchers in baseball. There are many teams that would benefit from him being the 4th or 5th man in their rotation. Kid can pitch.

Michael Procton

February 19th, 2012
11:38 pm

Yes, their development will be ruined just as Mike Hampton’s was after he spent his first two years coming out of the bullpen. Oh, wait.

reckingball

February 20th, 2012
2:42 am

Bravesfan@8:52………..The position players(except catchers) are not allowed to start practicing until a later date.

dap01

February 20th, 2012
8:03 am

I believe the collapse last year was partly due to Freddie’s inability to manage a game without pitching all three of our big three relievers. We need to alternate CK and JV as closers, use Medlin in close situations and also let a starter come back out in the 7th and get a batter or two.

That six innings at best is not good enough.

Chipper Looks Fat

February 20th, 2012
8:32 am

Chipper looks fat.

Just sayin.

JNick

February 20th, 2012
8:38 am

With all the injuries/workload questions (rotation and bullpen), wonder if the Braves have considered a 6 man rotation. They’d be wise to carry 12 pitchers all year…

reckingball

February 20th, 2012
9:04 am

Or perhaps, completely utilize the 5 man rotation, if the 5th pitcher is a quality starter.

Bill M.

February 20th, 2012
9:05 am

All of us are worried about young Braves pitchers going 6 inning’s or more. It’s not the pitcher’s fault, it’s the Braves management. They baby the pitcher’s to much in minor leagues. A pitcher should have pitched at least 175 innings per season in AA or AAA before coming to majors. The pitcher should be able to increase his innings when he reaches the big show.

collegeballfan

February 20th, 2012
9:08 am

Beachy, Delgado, Hanson, Hudson, Jurrjens, Medlen, Minor, Teheran and maybe Vizcaino.

Braves should be able to find 5 top notch starters out of this group.

1eyedJack

February 20th, 2012
10:42 am

Keep a bag packed Mr. Jurrjens, your plane could be departing near the end of July.

lou h

February 21st, 2012
9:52 pm

Heyward’s a superior athelete and will be just fine Uggla will hit 40. Pastornicky will never even be on the roster Opening Day. Trade Trade Trade!!! Chipper will hit when he can play, 300 at bats would be a miracle, but is he still able to play defense? he looked a little old at times defensvely.Sign Bourne at all costs to a long term deal. There only 7 or 8 legitimate lead off guys in all of baseball, he is one of them. Hope F Gonzalez did not burn up his big 3 relievers. Hate to say it but I bet 1 of them and maybe even 2 of them will go down at some point this season. Season will be fun but the Braves are only good enough for 3rd place at best. F Gonzalez will pay the price for failure.

[...] Jair Jurrjens was fitted for orthotics after a troublesome toe contributed to his knee discomfort. Now Jurrjens claims to feel better physically then he has in months and doesn’t appear to have any limitations this spring. [...]

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