LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — One year ago, Jair Jurrjens was on his way to the All-Star game.
On Monday, he was shagging fly balls at Triple-A Gwinnett.
It has been a humbling eight weeks for Jurrjens since his demotion to the minors April 24. He has had mixed results with Gwinnett, but with Sunday’s announcement that Brandon Beachy was headed to the disabled list came the word that Jurrjens will be recalled to start for Atlanta on Friday at Boston.
Jurrjens, who led the Braves with 13 wins last season, said he is determined to take advantage of his renewed confidence and stronger right knee and stick in Atlanta’s rotation.
He doesn’t intend to make this a short visit with Atlanta.
“No. Definitely not,” he said. “But I’m not going to put pressure on myself, either. I’m just going to go back up there and have fun and give my team the best game I’ve got. If I do that, then I’ve done my job.”
Jurrjens had a 1.82 ERA over his first 11 starts in 2011. Two trips to the disabled list and a nagging problem with his right knee changed his career path.
With a drop in his velocity, Jurrjens was hammered in April even though he insisted he no longer had pain in the right knee. Now he says part of the problem was he didn’t have time in the off-season to properly rebuild the strength in the knee.
Jurrjens, 26, gave up nine runs in one Triple-A start and 11 runs in another, leaving his overall ERA with Gwinnett at 5.27 for nine starts. Even so, assistant general manager Bruce Mano said Jurrjens earned his return to the big leagues.
“We felt he was the right guy to come back up,” Mano said. “He’s pitched some really good games here where they have seen marked improvement, and hopefully that can translate back to the major leagues.”
The Braves need Jurrjens to reclaim the form which made him one of Atlanta’s top pitchers from 2008 through 2011. His best season was 2009, when he was 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA.
Beachy, who leads the major leagues with his 2.00 ERA, left Saturday night’s game against Baltimore in the fourth inning with discomfort in his right elbow. He said Sunday he hopes his problem is nothing more serious than bone spurs. He was to have a MRI on Monday.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said Monday the team may not have the MRI results before Tuesday.
A successful return to form by Jurrjens could ease concerns caused by Beachy’s uncertain status.
“We need him,” Mano said of Jurrjens. “No question, we need him. He’s a big piece of our rotation at this point.”
Brundage said he sees a change in Jurrjens.
“I think he’s pitching with more confidence,” Brundage said. “He’s come down here and from his work ethic to his approach, I know he’s pitching with more confidence than when he arrived here.
“He’s been out there working his butt off every day, dedicating himself. It’s not that he wasn’t before, but sometimes it’s a wake-up call and applying yourself.”
Jurrjens began his career with Detroit before he was traded to Atlanta with Gorkys Hernandez for shortstop Edgar Renteria on Oct. 29, 2007. He is 47-34 with a 3.48 ERA with Atlanta.
He smiled Monday when asked about making his return to the major leagues at Fenway Park.
“It’s putting somebody in the spotlight coming back,” Jurrjens said. “It’s a great chance and I’m excited.”