No reason to panic about Jurrjens yet
While we wait to learn Jair Jurrjens’ MRI results, it’s still too early for Braves fans to panic. But it’s quite obviously not a news angle the Braves wanted surrounding them as their players start filtering into their Spring Training camp.
As much as the Braves might want to hope that Jurrjens is simply dealing with normal soreness, there’s little normal about the fact that his right shoulder discomfort has proven significant enough for him to fly back to Atlanta to see the team’s doctors.
Jurrjens is tough, but he’s also smart. Given that it is still just Feb. 16, maybe it does make the most sense for him to take whatever precautions to attempt to prevent this shoulder discomfort from lingering throughout the season.
Seeing how you are now saying, “I told you the Braves never should have traded Vazquez”, I’ll remind you that Javier Vazquez was sent back to Atlanta to be evaluated when he felt some discomfort during his final start before the All-Star break.
These kinds of things happen to pitchers. You just have to hope that when they do occur, you don’t find yourself worrying about the arm of young pitcher as talented as Jurrjens.
While the best-case scenario would be for doctors to give him a clean bill of health and allow him to resume all throwing activities immediately, you have to think that the best thing Jurrjens will learn is that he just needs to rest his arm for a few weeks.
This obviously would put him behind schedule and in position to miss the beginning of the regular season. Unfortunately for the Braves, this year’s schedule forces them to utilize each member of their five-man rotation before the first weekend is complete.
As you might remember, last year’s schedule was aligned in a way that would have provided Tom Glavine just two starts in April, with the first coming on April 20.
If Jurrjens is forced to miss more an extended amount of time, there’s no doubt that it would be a big blow to the club’s chances of sending Bobby Cox out as a winner. But as long as Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe pitch live up to the expectations set by their successful pasts, this Atlanta rotation would still be strong enough to help the team become a postseason contender.
It seems like Cox is really looking forward to seeing Kris Medlen in the bullpen this year. But the 24-year-old right-hander, who recorded 72 strikeouts and issued 30 walks in 67 2/3 innings last year, would likely start the season in the rotation if Jurrjens is unable to do so.
Another name you’ll hear often over the next couple of weeks is Jose Ortegano, who Eddie Perez has labeled the best pitcher he’s seen in the Venezuelan Winter League the past two years. Ortegano caught upper management’s attention last year when he went 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA in eight starts for Double-A Mississippi.
The 22-year-old Ortegano and Mike Minor, the club’s top selection in last year’s Draft, seemingly need to gain some more seasoning in the Minors. But either of them could find their way into the rotation at some point this season.
Within the next couple days, there might no longer be a need to speculate about who could fill Jurrjens’ spot in the rotation.
But for now, the Braves are going to deal with the fact that regardless of the MRI results, they will be spending the early days of camp with a lot of attention placed in the direction of Jurrjens’ shoulder.