KISSSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens would have liked to have pitched a couple of clean innings in efficient fashion. But it was more important for him to get the kind of results he did against the Astros on Monday, when he completed his Grapefruit League season debut without any concerns about his right knee.
"You guys know, I [stink] in Spring Training anyway," Jurrjens said. "I get hit all of the time. I try a lot of stuff in Spring Training. The main thing is, I'm trying to get the feel back of pushing off and not feeling anything. I succeeded by pushing off with no pain. I wish I hadn't given up two runs, but this Spring Training, I'm just trying to work on my pitching and ... get comfortable with my mechanics again."
With Tim Hudson recovering from back surgery and Tommy Hanson behind schedule because of a concussion, Jurrjens appears to be the most likely option to serve as Atlanta's Opening Day starter. But as he allowed the Astros two runs in his 47-pitch, two-inning debut, it was apparent he, too, is still a work in progress as he attempts to avoid the right-knee discomfort that has sidelined him down the stretch during the past two seasons.
"I felt good," Jurrjens said. "It seemed like the fastball is coming back, slowly. I had no pain. I'm just trying new stuff on the mound. The main thing is no pain."
Jurrjens was a National League Cy Young Award candidate when he entered last year's All-Star break with an NL-leading 1.87 ERA. The 26-year-old hurler proved to be completely different when his right knee began bothering him after the break. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise, and by the end of August, he was removed from the starting rotation.
Now supported by a knee brace and orthotics in both of his shoes, Jurrjens is not burdened by the discomfort that bothered him whenever he attempted to push off the mound. His fastball touched 90 mph during Monday's outing -- and primarily rested between 87-88 mph.
"For me, that's awesome," Jurrjens said. "Last year, I don't think I threw 90 during the first couple games of Spring Training, or even in the season a lot. If I threw 90 today, it means I'm getting strong with the stuff we're doing between starts. I just need to keep working and get stronger."
Jurrjens worked a perfect first inning against the Astros and then allowed a pair of doubles, as he labored through a two-run second inning. This was his first time in a competitive atmosphere since pitching five innings in an instructional league game a day after last year's regular season concluded.
"That was good for him to come out, get the two innings of work and just get the rust off a little bit," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.