Jurrjens needs to move forward

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Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens delivers a pitch to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.  CHRIS CARLSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHRIS CARLSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens delivers a pitch to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.

Jair Jurrjens needed to be demoted. That much was clear.

But from this day forward, if he is going to get better he needs to accept the decision. Once he does that, he might be able to follow the same path of another pitcher you might have heard from: the Phillies' Cliff Lee. 

From 2004-06, Lee went 46-24 in 98 starts. But in 2007, Lee was scuffling with a 5-8 record with a 6.29 ERA in 20 starts. The decision came down to demote him to Triple-A Buffalo. I remember the day it happened and thinking, "There's no way I could be a pro player and suddenly get sent down. I'd walk away before suffering through that humiliation."

But Lee did what most probably didn't expect him to do: He accepted the demotion with class and worked hard to get back to his major league form. And boy did he ever.

He came back in 2008 better than ever and then some. Lee went 22-3 with a AL-best 2.54 ERA and during one stretch, he won 11 in a row and pitched into the seventh inning 24 times. Overall, the Indians were 24-7 in his appearances. 

Lee blamed his lost year on an abdominal injury that he didn't allow to heal properly. Which brings us back to Jurrjens.

He opened last year on the DL with a strained right oblique, but managed to become an All-Star, going 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 110 innings. He allowed five homers in 23 starts and kept batters guessing, holding them to a .229 average. He was placed on the DL for a second time in August with a right knee strain, which only complicated his second-half swoon. He made seven starts finishing 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA.

Jurrjens was demoted shortly after the Braves 7-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night. In four starts this season, Jurrjens is 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA, pitching only 16.1 innings in which he allowed 30 hits, 17 earned runs and five homers. He also managed to walk 10 while striking out eight. Opposing hitters are hitting .411 against him. All of these numbers are the worst among those in the rotation. 

The only quotes I saw from Jurrjens came from Mark Bowman, who covers the Braves for MLB.com, in which he said "I'm not a quitter" and "I just need to keep fighting." Those comments were made before he found out about his demotion.

Jurrjens obviously can pitch or else he wouldn't have been in the majors. Here's hoping Jurrjens handles the demotion with the same class and professionalism Lee did more than five years ago. The Braves have been lauded for having one of the best pitching organizations in baseball. They have the resources to help Jurrjens improve.

As they say, the ball is in his hands.

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