Jair Jurrjens Rumors

Quick Hits: Braves, Pirates, Rockies, Nationals

The Marlins ended their franchise record offensive draught of scoring five runs or less for 25 consecutive games in their 9-0 win over the Blue Jays. And, for good measure, the nine runs were a season-high for the Marlins, who ended their six-game losing streak. Here's the latest news from around baseball.

  • The Braves could make starting pitching a priority at the trade deadline because of the growing pains of Mike Minor and Randall Delgado and the uncertainty surrounding Jair Jurrjens, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
  • The Pirates need to create an opening in their starting rotation when Jeff Karstens returns from the disabled list this week and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review thinks a trade could create that opening (via Sulia). Biertempfel reported yesterday the Pirates are shopping Kevin Correia.
  • With the Pirates looking for offensive help, the Denver Post's Troy Renck notes the Rockies have players available, including Marco Scutaro. In the same piece, Renck offers his suggestions on who the Rockies should play the rest of the way in 2012, so as to best prepare for 2013.
  • The Nationals are not willing to pay a fine in order to exceed their draft bonus pool, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. This is a corection to a story Kilgore wrote yesterday. Kilgore writes this stance will lower the amount the Nationals will be able to offer their first round draft pick Lucas Giolito.
  • Condolences to the friends of family of Padres' bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today.  He was 50.

Quick Hits: Hamels, Hernandez, Bourn, Jurrjens

It was on this day in 1869 that professional baseball had its first rainout, as a game between the Red Stockings and the Antioch Nine was postponed due to poor weather.  While some teams can guarantee games will always be played thanks to retractable roofs or domed stadiums, the rainout is still a common element of baseball, welcomed by nobody except fans of the 1948 Boston Braves.

Some news from around the majors as we head into June…

  • The Phillies and Cole Hamels haven't made any progress in contract negotiations, reports ESPN's Buster Olney.  Some baseball executives expect Hamels to hit free agency this winter, with one NL official telling Olney, "Unless the Phillies give him one of the top deals in history, why wouldn't he test [the market]?  He's so close to free agency."
  • Roberto Hernandez could be back in the Major Leagues by the All-Star Break, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Hernandez, a.k.a. Fausto Carmona, isn't expected to receive an eight-week suspension for identity fraud like Juan Carlos Oviedo, as his restructured contract with the Indians is expected to be seen as sufficient penalty.
  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) predicts Braves outfielder Michael Bourn will look for a five- or six-year contract with an average annual value of around $15MM when he hits free agency after this season.  The Braves were known to be looking for young center field talent last winter since they weren't keen on paying Bourn such a large contract, though his strong performance thus far in 2012 could change the team's mind.
  • Jair Jurrjens "is a guy that other clubs need to get back on," says a scout who has seen Jurrjens pitch in Triple-A, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  The Braves dangled Jurrjens as trade bait during the offseason, though if he really was back on form, you would think Atlanta would want him to help its own struggling pitching rotation.  Jurrjens has a 4.85 ERA and a 2.63 K/BB ratio in six minor league starts this season, pitching very well in four outings but getting rocked in two others.
  • "There might be no team further away from success than the Minnesota Twins," writes Jonah Keri for Grantland in a piece that outlines how the Twins have become one of baseball's worst clubs.
  • Ernesto Frieri has been a boon to the Angels' bullpen, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.  Since being acquired from the Padres four weeks ago, Frieri has yet to allow a run or even a hit in 12 innings for the Angels, though he has recorded 10 walks.

Quick Hits: Cubs, Braves, Quentin, Utley

The Cubs are trying to break an 11-game losing streak, their longest in 15 years, as they take on the Pirates this afternoon at PNC Park.  Manager Dale Sveum has changed closers, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  Sveum didn't reveal who would replace Rafael Dolis if a save opportunity presents itself, but Sullivan writes he did mention James Russell and Casey Coleman

Here are some more links on this Sunday before Memorial Day.

  • MLB.com's Mark Bowman tweets the Braves may be looking for starting pitching because of the struggles of Mike Minor and Jair Jurrjens.  Bowman cautions money will be an issue.
  • Manager Bud Black told reporters including Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune that Carlos Quentin could make his Padres debut this week when the team travels to Chicago.  Quentin has yet to play this season because of knee surgery performed in March. 
  • Chase Utley also hasn't seen action in 2012 because of a knee injury.  Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes Utley is feeling better but there is still no timetable for his minor league rehab.  Salisbury points out Utley has been working in left field to ease the strain on his knees and to work on his agility.
  • Kevin Mulvey has retired, reports ESPN New York's Adam Rubin.  Mulvey had been pitching in relief with the Mets' Double-A affiliate.  Mulvey was part of the Johan Santana trade and rejoined the Mets late in spring training after being released by the Diamondbacks.

Quick Hits: Padres, Jurrjens, Reds, Angels

Here are some links from around the league as Tuesday turns into Wednesday…

Make Or Break Year: Jair Jurrjens

The Braves boast an enviable collection of young pitchers, enough that they were able to trade Derek Lowe this offseason, lose Tim Hudson to injury, and still go 10-7 early on. Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and Tommy Hanson have carried the bulk of the workload while Randall Delgado cuts his teeth as the fifth starter and Julio Teheran bides his time in Triple-A. One guy who has not carried his weight so far is right-hander Jair Jurrjens.

Uspw_6190304Jurrjens, 26, made a fourth straight disaster start last night – five runs in three innings to the Dodgers – and was demoted to Triple-A after the game. He's allowed 17 runs and put 38 men on base in 16 1/3 innings across those four starts after posting a 2.96 ERA and being named to the NL All-Star Team last year. Jurrjens did finish last season on the disabled list though, missing a total of 44 games with right knee inflammation. He had surgery on the same knee after the 2010 season and has made a total of five trips to the disabled list since his debut in 2007.

The biggest physical concern with Jurrjens is not necessarily his knee, but his declining fastball velocity. PitchFX data says he averaged between 91.2 and 91.9 mph every year from 2007-2010 before dropping off to 89.1 mph last season and 88.4 mph in the early going this season. The start-by-start plot of his fastball velocity range is troubling, especially since he had shoulder problems in 2007 (inflammation) and 2010 (stiffness). Only once in his four years had Jurrjens topped 200 innings (2009) and only twice has he topped 160 innings (2008 and 2009).

Although his ERA has fluctuated through the years, Jurrjens has maintained a steady walk (3.2 BB/9) and strikeout (6.1 K/9) rate through his career. He started his time in the big leagues by getting a healthy amount of ground balls (49.6% from 2007-2008), though he's become more susceptible to fly balls in recent years (41.7% from 2009-2012). After producing 3.7 and 3.9 wins above replacement in 2008 and 2009 according to FanGraphs, respectively, he's produced just 2.2 WAR total in the two years and three weeks since.

Jurrjens will make $5.5MM this season, his second year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two. The Braves made no secret of their willingness to trade him this past offseason, most notably offering him to the Orioles as part of a package for Adam Jones. They also had talks with the Rockies, Red Sox, Royals, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Reds. Given his relatively high salary, two more years of arbitration eligibility, his injury problems, and all the young arms in the rotation around him, Jurrjens suddenly looks like a potential non-tender candidate if he can't right the ship in Triple-A and contribute to the big league club this season.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

NL East Notes: Jurrjens, Utley, Tejada, Wright

Here are some links from the NL East on the day Chipper Jones turns 40 and Jose Reyes returns to Citi Field…

  • The Braves optioned right-hander Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A Gwinnett following a disappointing start against the Dodgers yesterday. The right-hander has a 9.37 ERA through four starts, so he's returning to the minors, where he last spent considerable time in 2007. Jurrjens' path to free agency could be affected if he spends two months or more in the minor leagues.
  • Phillies manager Charlie Manuel hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing Chase Utley at first base when he's activated from the disabled list, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. If Utley returns before Ryan Howard, the Phillies could mix things up defensively. "We'll figure that out when we get there," Manuel said. 
  • Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has the unenviable task of replacing Reyes, but as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com shows, the 22-year-old has already earned the confidence of his team. Meanwhile, Tejada says Reyes was a "great teammate" in New York before signing a $106MM free agent contract with the Marlins this past offseason. 
  • Ken Davidoff of the New York Post suggests there's no rush to lock David Wright up long-term despite the third baseman's hot start. Davidoff points out that it's April and that Wright is under team control through 2013. If he's still hitting this well when summer trade talks begin in earnest, the Mets will face a major decision, but we aren't there yet.

Quick Hits: Wright, Bowden, Jurrjens

The Rays locked Evan Longoria up to a historic six-year, $17.5MM extension on this date in 2008. Then a rookie with just six games of experience, Longoria has since evolved into one of the game's top players. Here are today's links…

Smoltz Talks Returning NL Pitchers

It happens every spring. Pitchers nurse shoulders, backs and elbows to health in preparation for the season. But there are no guarantees for any injured pitcher, regardless of his resume. 

“You’ve got to know what your body can and can’t do,” John Smoltz told me in a recent interview. “Not every pitcher’s going to be perfectly healthy their whole career, so there has to be some degree of discomfort that you have to pitch through. Once you learn how to do that, you’re able to overcome more.”

Jair Jurrjens - Braves (PW)

Smoltz speaks from experience. He recovered from Tommy John surgery to reinvent himself as a dominant closer and worked through shoulder problems to strike out nearly a batter per inning as a 42-year-old. Now an analyst with MLB Network, he recently caught up with a number of high-profile pitchers returning from injuries for his role on MLB Tonight.  

When Smoltz signed with the 2009 Cardinals, Adam Wainwright was at his peak, in the midst of a season that would see him post a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 233 innings. Two and a half years later, Wainwright’s returning from ligament replacement surgery and expectations are lofty. 

“That’s where Tommy John surgery is a little misunderstood,” Smoltz said. “Adam basically is looked upon this year I think unfairly as a big cog to replace the departure of Albert Pujols and now possibly the delay of Chris Carpenter. That’s an unfair situation for him to go in, since he needs the same kind of time and grace that everybody does returning from Tommy John.”

Regaining full strength following Tommy John surgery took more than a year for Smoltz, who missed the 2000 season recovering from the operation. But he acknowledges recovery times vary from pitcher to pitcher and anticipates a strong season from Wainwright. 

“Can he go back to the Cy Young type numbers? I don’t know,” Smoltz said. “I think it’s a little unfair [to expect that] the first year. But I certainly can see him doing easily some of the things that we’ve expected him to do in that first year.”

Smoltz believes Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson will rebound from a disappointing 2011 season. In fact, Johnson may have benefitted from his team's cautious approach late last season. He didn't pitch after May 16th last year, and Smoltz suggested the Marlins could have rushed him back under different circumstances.

“That’s a luxury," he said. "I expect that everything is where it needs to be and that he’s going to go out there and, unfortunately for the hitters, probably dominate.”

Smoltz last played for the Braves four years ago, but he spent two decades in Atlanta, so he knows the organization as well as anyone. He says former teammates Tim Hudson (back) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) must make most of their starts to have successful seasons. The Braves will be relying on their starters, since a repeat performance from their relievers may be unrealistic. 

“There’s no way the bullpen can do what they did last year with the amount of times they were used,” Smoltz said. “I think the starting pitching has got to find a way to pitch some much-needed innings over the course of the season.” 

A few months ago, the Braves seemed to have an abundance of starting pitching, and Mike Minor seemed expendable. Now that Julio Teheran has been sent to the minor leagues and Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season, Minor’s a key component of the Braves’ pitching staff. “Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make,” Smoltz noted. 

Mets fans who wish their team had never traded for Johan Santana might agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. But there’s optimism that the Mets will see some return from the $24MM left-hander in 2012. Smoltz says the two-time Cy Young Award winner seems just as motivated as the 26-year-old Jurrjens. 

“They both have the urgency to want to pitch, but it’s different,” he said. “You’ve got a guy in Johan Santana with all of the hardware, big contract. He wants to get out there and compete. I’ve heard nothing but unbelievable things.”

Cy Young Awards are a motivator for pitchers coming back from injury, but contracts also lurk in the background. Even Smoltz, a future Hall of Famer, wasn’t able to generate interest based on his resume alone during his playing days. Successfully returning from an injury can make all the difference when it’s time for a new contract.

“In sports you’re as good as your last impression,” Smoltz says. 

For these pitchers, the 2012 season represents the opportunity to create new impressions and erase old ones. 

John Smoltz will be a game analyst for the MLB Network Showcase schedule this season beginning on Friday, April 20 featuring the Red Sox v. Yankees at 3pm ET. MLB Network will feature a package of live 30 games featuring all 30 Clubs beginning on Thursday, April 5 between the Dodgers & Padres. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Quick Hits: Draft Pools, Young, Jurrjens, Prado, Pudge

The city of Montreal will pay tribute to former Expos great Gary Carter by naming a street or other public place in his honor, reports Linda Gyulai of the Montreal Gazette.  City officials will consult with the Carter family to find an "appropriate" location to bear the Hall of Famer catcher's name.  Carter passed away last Thursday after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

Some news from around the majors….

  • Jim Callis of Baseball America breaks down how much each team will have to spend in the first 10 rounds of the 2012 draft. The Twins top the list, able to spend as much as $12.37MM to sign their 13 picks over the initial 10 rounds, while the Angels ($1.645MM) have the least to spend on their eight picks over the same stretch.
  • The draft pool totals will shift if Derrek Lee — the last free agent with compensation attached to him — signs a Major League deal with a new team.  As Callis notes, however, it's pretty unlikely that Lee will find such a deal at this point.
  • The Pirates and Phillies both passed on signing Dmitri Young after working him out in Florida this months, reports MLB.com's Matthew Leach. Even if Young's baseball comeback falls short, he says the real victory is his improved health, having lost over 70 pounds.
  • Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado are both pleased to still be Braves after a long winter of trade rumors surrounding both men, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
  • Ivan Rodriguez isn't prepared to retire and is keeping in shape for a possible job this season, he tells the Associated Press. "It has been a tough market for veterans," Rodriguez said. "There are a lot of guys who have won championships and have playoff experience to offer teams with no jobs. It's hard to believe.''

NL East Notes: Hamels, Bonifacio, Jurrjens

The two biggest free agent contracts handed out by NL East teams this offseason went to Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle of the Marlins. They signed deals worth $106MM and $58MM, respectively, in December. Here are the latest links from the division…