Jurrjens feels ‘not wanted’ by Braves, struggles don’t help

Jair Jurrjens still ddn't feel right when he reported to spring training. (AP photo)

Jair Jurrjens still didn't feel right when he reported to spring training. (Jason Getz/AJC)

When the Braves sent pitcher Kris Medlen to the minors a few days ago, significantly different conversations were going on in the clubhouses involved.

At Turner Field, the talk centered on how quickly Medlen could “stretch out” his arm and transition from reliever to starter, thereby rescuing the team’s rotation. At the minor league confines of Coolray Field in Gwinnett, the questions centered on whether this unofficially signaled the end of Jair Jurrjens’ career as a Brave.

“I understand it’s a business, and they need to do what they need to do,” said Jurrjens, less than a year removed from being an All-Star. “But you have feelings, and it hurts when you feel like you’re not wanted somewhere.”

And that’s what it feels like?

“If I say no, I’m lying. When you’re doing good, everybody loves you. When you’re doing bad, everybody hates you.

“You hear stuff. When the Medlen stuff happened, people around here, my teammates, were like, ‘Wow, they didn’t even think to call you back up?’ People were asking me, ‘Did they say anything to you?’ It just shows me what I mean to them. It doesn’t feel good, but that’s OK. It’s business.”

Few athletes have suffered such a dramatic career U-turn as Jurrjens. At this time a year ago, he was among the better pitchers in baseball. He went 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 16 starts in the first half of the season and was selected to the All-Star game. He was the National League’s pitcher of the month for May after posting a 1.65 ERA in six starts. He was the first Braves starter since Greg Maddux (1994) to start the season with 11 consecutive “quality” starts. His ERA through those 11 starts: 1.82.

Jurrjens was the N.L.'s pitcher of month for May 2011. But this May he was in Gwinnett, courtesy of Frank Wren. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Only a year ago, general manager Frank Wren was handing Jair Jurrjens the N.L.'s pitcher of month award for May. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Then came the slide. Jurrjens’ right knee began to hurt. He lost strength in his leg. He altered his delivery to try to compensate and messed up his mechanics. He made only seven starts in the second half, going 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA. The problems carried over into this season. Jurrjens made four starts lasting a combined 16 1/3 innings (0-2, 9.37) before being optioned to Gwinnett.

Being sent down wasn’t traumatic for Jurrjens. To the contrary: “It was easier to accept because I knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing to help the team out, and I needed to work to get my strength back in my leg. It was probably the best thing that happened to me.”

But what now?

Jurrjens believes he has made progress. Leg strength has come back. Pitching velocity has ticked up. It showed Sunday when he threw eight shutout innings at Rochester.

But he woke up ill Thursday. He spent much of the day passed out on a trainer’s table at the stadium, got up later only for an interview, then went home before the game.

The problem: “Everything,” he said. “Sinus, fever, stomach.”

He was still sick and looked pale Friday but decided to start anyway. Why?

“I felt committed,” he said.

The last thing he needed was for the organization to think he wouldn’t try to pitch sick. But it backfired. He had no velocity or movement on his pitches against Charlotte and was hammered for six earned runs (10 total) and 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. The fact that manager Dave Brundage left him in seemed like torture.

“I couldn’t even catch my breath,” Jurrjens said.

His strong start last week caught the attention of some scouts, but he doesn’t sense any interest from the Braves. Friday obviously didn’t help. His confidence has taken a shot.

Medlen was designated as the man on deck for the Braves’ rotation. Nor did it help when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez grew uncomfortable a few weeks ago when reporters kept asking for updates on Jurrjens’ status, and he responded: “Without making it sound cruel, he’s a minor league player right now.”

Brundage said Jurrjens’ assignment never was expected to be “short term.”

The Braves shopped Jurrjens in the winter, but his market value was down coming off the injury and a poor second half. It’s logical to assume he’s still available.

“All I can control is my performance,” he said. “If I’m not in their plans, I’ll move on. But I’m not a Triple-A pitcher.”

His first four-plus seasons in the majors indicated as much. But it has been a rough road since, and it’s clear to him now that he’s off the Braves’ radar.

By Jeff Schultz

216 comments Add your comment

King of mean

June 1st, 2012
10:44 pm

Jair – braves NEED good pitching. Braves WANT good pitching. Be good and watch what happens.

King of mean

June 1st, 2012
10:45 pm

Oh and first.

Merlin

June 1st, 2012
10:46 pm

Until he proves he’s a major league pitcher again he is a Triple A pitcher. Instead of having his feelings hurt he should bow his neck and prove his worth. The Braves stayed with him when his pitches were flat and over the meat of the plate. When he’s painting corners regularly again he’s welcome.

Kane337

June 1st, 2012
10:46 pm

Keep pitching good Jair and you WILL get called back up. The Braves NEED good pitching.

Ole Smoky

June 1st, 2012
10:49 pm

Memo to Jair… Shut up & pitch !

Memphis

June 1st, 2012
10:55 pm

Cant be any worse than Minor….

Brian G.

June 1st, 2012
11:01 pm

I’m sure the Braves want Jurrjens, but they also want him to stop sucking. I’m also sure they thought to call him back up, but he didn’t deserve it so they didn’t.

JC Boscan III

June 1st, 2012
11:03 pm

He probably made a mistake, like many pro athletes do, of trying to be Mr. Tough Guy instead of Mr. Smart Guy —- if he had waited a day or two until he wasn’t sick, and pitched another good 7 or 8 innings to back up what he did in his last start, with some more 92 and 93 MPH fastballs, he would have had a great case to be called back up. It’s not like Minor’s spot has been the only weak link in our starting rotation. Delgado will look good for a few innings, give up 4 runs, and leave with another mediocre line in the box score. We can’t win the division with that inconsistency. If JJ can get it together, he should be back in the rotation very soon. Now, he’s going to have to wait 5 more days to give it another shot………..

Nashville

June 1st, 2012
11:04 pm

“If I’m not in their plans, I’ll move on. But I’m not a Triple A pitcher.” Your 5.56 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 43 innings suggest otherwise, JJ. 43 hits allowed in 43 innings. Not good.

JoeR

June 1st, 2012
11:06 pm

Jair, there’s no crying in baseball. You could learn a little thing about having the right attitude from Brandon Beachy.

Ken in Alpharetta

June 1st, 2012
11:08 pm

No pity parties in the bigs. Get it done or get gone. I believe JJ is gone, probably for a low level prospect or a career utility guy, as if the team needs another one of those.

Riddle me this

June 1st, 2012
11:10 pm

Judging by his performance thus far in the minors, he is not a triple-A pitcher. Double-A might be his ceiling right now…

Not Wren

June 1st, 2012
11:11 pm

if things go wrong this year Freddy is going to be optioned to triple_a.

GT Alum

June 1st, 2012
11:15 pm

If the Braves didn’t think he was a good pitcher, he wouldn’t have started the year here. The only reason they didn’t just trade him for whatever they could get in the offseason is because they thought he was not just a viable major league starter, but a good major league starter.

The fact that the pitching staff in general is having issues doesn’t make the issues that caused the Braves to send him down magically go away. What good does replacing one struggling pitcher with another one do? Maybe he could help them win an extra game or 2, but they’re more focused on what a fully recovered JJ could do for them over the course of the entire season than the June record.

Sounds like Wren and possibly Fredi need to reiterate this to JJ, although it sounds like he’s enjoying wallowing in a little self-pity too. And his AAA teammates need to realize they aren’t helping him and keep their mouths shut.

kirkinga

June 1st, 2012
11:32 pm

It probably didn’t help that he was shopped around during the offseason. He isn’t completely wrong in that as soon as he hit a really rocky patch, he was gone. Meanwhile, guys that have yet to have any success in the majors and have pitched worse, are given longer to work things out.

The Braves need this guy to get turned around and part of it means at least faking that they want him. If this guy goes on to return to All-Star form on another team then the Braves will share a large burden of the blame.

I hope he and Medlen are both called up and send Minor and Delgado back down because neither of them should be facing the upcoming AL East lineups.

Gwinnett Fred

June 1st, 2012
11:35 pm

To be honest, I think the Braves are making things REAL easy to wash their hands of him and his agent (Boras) after this season is over!

Da Mick

June 1st, 2012
11:41 pm

Whatever series of changes he’s going through, as a result of injuries, and then reactions to injuries (that can be a hellish spiral) JJ’s got what it takes, and it will come out as the superior pitcher that he is at some point. Despite all the commentary here to the contrary, I believe that, when he’s right, he’s one of the better pitchers in the NL, and very much like Maddox in terms of his approach and pitching smarts. The Braves would foolish to write him off. I thought Gonzelez’s comment about JJ being a minor leauger seemed insensitive and foolish when I read them. Strangely enough, they seemed almost intentionally inflamatory. But the Brave’s current manager has already shown that he’s not really very centered as a manager himself. I think the manager doesn’t have enough confidence himself to deal with the trials that players like JJ are going through. Why he’s willing to make Mike Minor his pet project, but write JJ off is beyond me.

GT Alum

June 1st, 2012
11:56 pm

kirkinga -

I think you’ve forgotten how incredibly bad Jurrjens was to start the season. He had an ERA over 9, a 2.45 WHIP, a .411 average against and allowed a 1.167 OPS against him. That makes Minor’s ERA just below 7 seem quite good. He allowed the same number of HRs in 16.1 innings as Delgado’s allowed in 55 innings. He had more walks than strikeouts; Delgado’s team-leading 29 BB are at least somewhat balanced by 42 Ks. About the only stat where JJ isn’t worst on the team is he didn’t hit any batters or throw any wild pitches. Other than that, he was terrible.

I’m not saying this to bash Jurrjens, just to quiet the misconception that JJ was better than anyone else on our staff has been.

No dawgfan

June 1st, 2012
11:57 pm

It bears repeating: Get your act together and you will have a spot on the big league roster. If you continue to stink at Gwinnett, why would the Braves think you’re going to be any better against big league hitters. Quit whining and grow a pair…..

JSS

June 2nd, 2012
12:04 am

Wow, Jurrigens went out there time-after-time last season when it was clear he was hurt! And there are so-called “fans” questioning “his attitude?” Amazing, he did what Hampton, Kawakami, Lowe, and others would not do, tried to will this team to the playoffs… Why don’t send Tommy Hanson to Gwinnett and get his head straight?

Disgusted

June 2nd, 2012
12:06 am

If JJ wants to feel “wanted” he needs to pitch better.

It is nothing personal, what he did when he was good (which was two and a half yrs) he was appreciated.

His horriffic start with the big club and his inconsistencies with the G-Braves are unappreciated. Nothing personal Jair.

Scrape the S#$T off your shoes and become an effective pitcher again. Stop pitching like a BUMB.

Disgusted

June 2nd, 2012
12:08 am

And BTW, I am rooting for Jair to get it back, if not here, than somewhere else. Personally, I wish him the very best like I do with all ex-Braves.

Abnerish

June 2nd, 2012
12:10 am

Jair – Until your hat has an “A” on it instead of a “G”, you are a triple-A pitcher. The sooner he realizes that, the sooner he can get over himself and get back to the bigs. I guarantee the Braves front office wants him to succeed, and for Jair to think otherwise is just childish. The dude needs to grow up.

GT Alum

June 2nd, 2012
12:14 am

JSS -

Maybe he needs to stop trying to “tough through it”. He hasn’t gotten particularly good results, and neither have some of the other players who’ve tried it.

kirkinga

June 2nd, 2012
12:22 am

@GT Alum- I don’t pretend that JJ has only pitched the last half of 2012 and a few games this season. Given the choice of Minor, Delgado, and JJ, I believe history says that JJ gives the team the better chance.

He was sent down when Minor looked to have turned the corner. We now know that is a mirage. Given how long they let Delgado and Minor blow-up, I don’t blame JJ for being upset. The organization needs to get this guy going and then either trade him for some value, or stick with him if he returns to form. If he responds better to a pat on the back rather than a kick to his ego, then so be it.

Lastly, if he could play for Bobby Cox, why the heck can’t he play for Fredi?

kerryb

June 2nd, 2012
12:28 am

I don’t think the Braves have given up on him. They really need for him to straight himself out so quit whining and do it. They are not just going to bring you back because you use to be a major league pitcher when you you’re getting beaten up by minor league hitters.

It happens

June 2nd, 2012
12:37 am

What’s more unbelievable? The fact that JJ isn’t happy in triple A or the fact that Heyward hasn’t been sit down there to join him yet?

SR

June 2nd, 2012
12:40 am

Yeah, so what, you’re right!!! Get somebody out and get in shape you fat f–k and quit your whining. When you show you got big league stuff again, if ever, maybe the bigs call you up again. With that crap you’re running up there now, you couldn’t get Larvell Blanks out.

ACE

June 2nd, 2012
12:43 am

Maybe the millions he is making will help him feel better.

ACE

June 2nd, 2012
12:44 am

Just think what the braves could have done with the money they are paying JJ and D. Lowe.

GT Alum

June 2nd, 2012
12:59 am

kirkinga -

I was responding specifically to the comment about “guys that have yet to have any success in the majors and have pitched worse.” The have pitched worse part sounds like you were comparing this year’s results.

There was also another poster who said can’t be worse than Minor, when he already has.

Also, if you read the comments Wren, Fredi and Brundage made when he was sent down, it’s obvious there were certain things they saw that weren’t right that they wanted him to work on, and they don’t plan on calling him up until those issues are addressed. And I’d have a hard time arguing that’s the wrong strategy. If not being called up at the first opportunity is playing with his head, imagine what sending him back up to the majors too early to get shelled could do to his psyche.

And I’m not pretending that JJ has only pitched the last half of 2011 and 4 starts this season. But you can’t pretend that he’s the same pitcher he was before he got injured.

And despite Delgado’s bad innings, blow up is a harsh term. A 4.58 ERA is above average from a fifth starter. The problem is Beachy is the only member of the rotation that’s pitched up to ability thus far.

dawgforlife

June 2nd, 2012
1:00 am

give me a break JJ…I feel unwanted by the Braves…I am 49 overweight and out of shape. If I pitched in AAA, I would give up 10 to 12 runs in 3 to 4 innings…what they wouldn’t call me up?…I am livid…how dare they not give someone who can’t pitch an opportunity to pitch in the majors. Let me tell you something…keep stinking it up and you’ll not only feel unwanted by the Braves…you’ll be out of baseball…they do not give washed up pitchers a chance to pitch in the majors just so they will feel wanted.

Bubdylan

June 2nd, 2012
1:10 am

Glavine, KK, and JJ have all been put off by Wren not simply keeping dialogue going with them. No way JJ should be considered for a call up, but come on, keep these folks in the loop. Don’t ignore them.

Supes

June 2nd, 2012
1:13 am

It’s sad it’s come to this…but this is ALL on Jair so far…it’s up to him to get himself pitching like he did when he was successful at the major league level. I wish him all the best, but his attitude is poor and it’s not only going to hurt his already fragile relationship with the Braves organization…but all other TEAMS will be taking a notice of how he’s handling the whole AAA situation…it will affect him one way or another, surely he should be smart and keep QUIET and just WORK HARD. Just daym sometimes people go out of their way to sabotage their own future…

Casey

June 2nd, 2012
1:16 am

Just do your job. Stop whining. If you get better, you will be back in the majors with the Braves or someone, else. It is a business. Your paycheck tells you that you’re wanted. You make a hell of a lot of money, so just shut up and play.

randallelljr

June 2nd, 2012
1:43 am

This is ridiculous. Jurrgens at his worst is better than minor and delgado right now. My biggest fear with this news is that we might be losing the values and standards that bobby built for so many years. Jurrgens deserved to go down, but so does delgado, and definitely minor. Minor is a “minor”leaguer, at least JJ has earned his stripes, but it just looks like were gonna drive him away. We’ll see what happens when he’s healthy with a new team in the coming seasons, this is wrong, and blatant disrespect for a great young pitcher. I would feel way better if minor and delgado were pitching great, but they are garbage right now, and JJ has experience, which they don’t. Bad business by the braves right here, just speaking my mind, I still love em, but this is simply no good. He deserves better and he deserves to feel this way, look at his stats before he was injured last year and try to say that if he’s healthy we don’t need him, if u still think so, ur ignorant. We wont make the playoffs with delgado and minor, and just for the record, I love Medlen, but he’s been getting shelled.

Austin

June 2nd, 2012
2:28 am

Just wondering, why did we stick with Lowe so long last year? Fredi bothers me.

Bill

June 2nd, 2012
2:29 am

Good Luck JJ where ever you play..I hope you make it back soon.If I had to bet I’d say he goes to another team and becomes a star. Whatever good luck and thanks for 4 good years.

crewdawg

June 2nd, 2012
2:40 am

yea jason heyward sux he is not a major league player… let him go to AAA and be a triple A legend. they said he hit home runs so far when i havent seen it in the majors…. what a joke.it doesnt even looks like he tries hard. and he is built strange for a baseball player.

boykin

June 2nd, 2012
3:15 am

Sad story cause Jair was awesome and injuries took their toll…

NorCal Brave

June 2nd, 2012
5:12 am

What is it about basevball in Atlanta? Melky Cabrera stinks it up as a Brave, straightens it out in KC, now hitting .375 for the Giants; Jeff Francoeur, traded for a half season of Ryan Church, has become the steady day-to-day player Jason Heyward will likely never be. And yes, Derek Lowe was paid too much for the streaky performances he provided, so he goes to Cleveland and is having a better year than most of the Brave starters. I’m guessing JJ will be shipped somewhere and become an all star again.

IlliniBrave

June 2nd, 2012
5:30 am

JJ: two things you need to do to be “wanted” by the Braves:

1. Pitch like you are capable of

2. Dump Bora$$ as your agent

Braves don’t want you as long as you are going to be shopped around by an a-hole of an agent for a pricetag far beyond your performance.

59bulldawg

June 2nd, 2012
6:23 am

With pretty much the entire staff having problems, I’m beginning to wonder about our pitching coach. Is he screwing up their mechanics?

dap01

June 2nd, 2012
6:44 am

That is a shocking revelation: Ball teams only want good players. Sometimes that hurts when you realize that you are not good enough to play on a team. That is all that this is. JJ is struggling, he needs to improve and only after he improves will he be wanted anywhere.

Perhaps the BorASS karma is catching up with JJ.

chipper's ACL

June 2nd, 2012
6:44 am

All the reports state JJ needed to add strength to his knee. He altered his mechanics due to this issue. Has anyone started working with his mechanics now that he has regained strength? That’s never reported. He’s a control pitcher. Without proper form he can’t be effective. Everyone knows he can pitch so what’s the organizations problem? Any pitcher that has worn a Braves uniform the past few years that run into a mechanical funk never rebound if they remain with the team. Why is that? Pitching philosophies handed down from McDowell? Changing hitting coaches helped out everyone but J-Hey so why should the thought not be to change pitching coaches to get this group back on track? Nothing worse than seeing Hason only make it to the fifth inning. Simple facts: conditioned starters throw more innings which lessens the work load on the pen keeping them fresh. Pure rocket science. Also doesn’t help McCann nibbles each at bat causing pitch counts to rise. Sorry Brian. Your a great player but not a great catcher. Time for a change.

braveshoo

June 2nd, 2012
6:49 am

I agree 59bulldawg. When our pitchers start going bad, he cant seem to help them. Lowe was terrible for us, especially last year. Then he goes to the Indians and pitches like an Allstar again. The same thing this year for JJ, Minor, Venters, etc. I think somebody should start critically assessing the pitching coach.

JJ

June 2nd, 2012
7:26 am

Can’t figure out why the Braves shun Jair to Gwinnett so quickly, yet they seem willing to let Minor keep dragging the club down every 5th day. At the very least, JJ was no worse than Minor has been, but at least his pedigree says he has potential. I’d feel better with Martinez starting games than either one of them. Or Livan.

WTF

June 2nd, 2012
7:27 am

IlliniBrave has it right. If you have Boras as an agent, you get no tolerance. He may be working for his client, but his clients move around too much to be of any long-term use to a TEAM. Getting top dollar for a year or 2 (and maximizing Boras’ earnings) has proven to be bad news for the folks who pay the salaries. You want a career with a team? Dump Boras.

Mixer

June 2nd, 2012
7:29 am

By all accounts, Jair is a good guy and team mate. THAT still, or should, count for something in an organization standing behind him, keeping him informed & in the loop as opposed to banishing him to some kind of island prison status. But as JJ said in the piece, ‘it is a business’ and, to use a line from the Jerry Maquire movie, “It’s not show friends, it’s show business”. I wish JJ well.

UGAFurman

June 2nd, 2012
7:30 am

Everybody appreciates how great Jurjens has been for the team. But, he must understand that a major league club can not keep putting a guy out there who obviously doesn’t have his stuff. The Braves are already being more than patient with Minor on this issue. Keep working on it Jair and I have confidence you will be back. It is a business but when you put on that uniform you are part of a major league family. You are getting paid and right now getting paid to patiently work out your problems. Accept it like an adult and don’t talk to the media about your feelings.