Braves' Jair Jurrjens getting back into groove

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jair Jurrjens wants to start for the Braves on Opening Day, and he made a strong case for the job Sunday.

Jurrjens  Associated Press
Associated Press
Jurrjens

Jurrjens allowed a run and three hits over six innings in his best start of spring training, leading Atlanta to an 11-1 victory over a Houston Astros split squad Sunday.

Jurrjens struck out seven and also had two hits and scored a run.

It’s been a tough spring – he came into Sunday’s game with a 10.13 ERA – but Jurrjens said he was relieved to have a solid start and is convinced he can still be the No. 1 starter.

An All-Star last season, Jurrjens went 12-3 in the first half but struggled after the break and missed all of the Braves’ September collapse with a knee injury.

“I feel better now,” Jurrjens said. “I finally got to be more aggressive and I felt more mentally prepared. I didn’t want to throw hard, but I worked on my mental approach and it felt right.”

PHILLIES: Chase Utley will miss the entire exhibition schedule for the second consecutive year and will not be in Philadelphia’s Opening Day lineup because of his injured knees.

The five-time All-Star, limited to 103 games last year when he didn’t play his first game until May 23, said Sunday he will not have season-ending surgery and does not have plans to retire. He says he feels better than he did at this point last year.

“I’m not going to be ready for Opening Day,” Utley said. “I don’t really have a timeline on when I will be available. I will take this process fairly slow because I think it’s important to get everything around my knees working correctly. And I think it’s going to take a little bit of time. I’m disappointed. I’m upset. I’m not happy that I’m in this situation right now, but I’m not going to let that deter me and get me down.”

TIGERS: In Lakeland, Fla., Justin Verlander overcame a rocky first and pitched six solid innings in his next-to-last start of spring training as Detroit beat Philadelphia 6-3 in a split-squad game.

The 2011 AL Cy Young winner and MVP, allowed four hits – and two runs – to the first five Phillies, then retired 15 of the next 18 batters, allowing just three infield singles after the first inning.

YANKEES: In Tampa, Fla., Michael Pineda made a strong pitch to be in the rotation.

Pineda allowed one run and five hits over five innings in the Yankees’ 1-1, 10-inning tie with a Detroit Tigers split squad.

Pineda is competing with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia for three starting spots behind opening-day starter CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.

RANGERS: In Surprise, Ariz., Yu Darvish gave up four runs and six hits in five innings in a intrasquad game.

The Japanese rookie struck out 11 and gave up all his runs in the fourth against a batting order of mostly minor leaguers. Texas chose not to pitch him in the exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels.

RED SOX: Bobby Jenks apologized for “distractions” caused by his arrest in Florida on charges of driving under the influence.

In a statement Sunday, he said he is embarrassed and apologized to his teammates and the Red Sox for distractions he said he might have caused.

He was arrested Friday after a sheriff’s deputy saw his SUV driving erratically in Fort Myers, Fla. Jenks was released on bail.

An arrest report says Jenks told the deputy he took “too many muscle relaxers.” The deputy said Jenks was shaking uncontrollably and had a difficult time speaking.


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