Jurrjens optioned after latest struggles in LA

Jurrjens optioned after latest struggles in LA

LOS ANGELES -- As a dejected Jair Jurrjens stood in front of his locker at Dodger Stadium, he found himself saying things like "I'm not a quitter" and "I just need to keep fighting." Minutes later, the Braves pitcher learned that he will be continuing his fight while spending some time back at the Minor League level.

After watching Jurrjens labor through three-plus innings during Monday night's 7-2 loss to the Dodgers, the Braves made the decision to option him to Triple-A Gwinnett with the hope that he will regain the successful form that suddenly disappeared after he entered last year's All-Star break with the National League's best ERA.

"We optioned Jair tonight to give him a chance to work through his difficulties at the Triple-A level and hopefully come back ready to help us contend," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He is not having any health or injury issues, just needs to get back on track pitching wise."

Jurrjens was informed of the decision after talking to reporters. But after allowing the Dodgers nine hits and five runs in this stint that consisted of just 50 pitches, he was asked about the possibility that the Braves could place him on the disabled list or send him to the Minors.

Jurrjens did not immediately respond to messages left on his cell phone after it was learned he had been optioned. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would address the situation on Tuesday.

Right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday morning to take Jurrjens' roster spot. Gearrin has recorded 15 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .217 batting average in 12 1/3 scoreless innings for Gwinnett this year.

"I'm not a quitter," Jurrjens said before getting the news. "I'm just going to keep going out there to do my best. When I go out there, I try to do my best. That's the only thing I can do. ... Right now, I'm not that same guy I used to be. I'm just going to keep fighting."

In the 11 starts Jurrjens has made since entering last year's All-Star break with a 1.87 ERA, he has posted a 6.87 ERA and allowed opponents to compile a .335 batting average. The right knee discomfort the 26-year-old battled after last year's break was diagnosed as a bone bruise. He missed all of September, but the Braves were ready to allow him to start a Division Series game if they had reached the playoffs.

Wearing a knee brace and orthotics in his shoes, Jurrjens has not experienced any knee discomfort this year. Most of his pain has come courtesy of the 9.37 ERA and .411 opponent's batting average he has compiled through his first four starts.

The Braves talked to some clubs about the possibility of trading Jurrjens this past winter. But many expressed concerns about his knee. His velocity was down most of last year and he has primarily sat between 88-90 mph, while occasionally touching 92 mph this year.

"He's a tough kid and the good thing is he's had some success in the past," Gonzalez said.

With Tim Hudson set to return to the Atlanta rotation on Sunday or Monday, the Braves will likely send Randall Delgado to the mound to start Saturday's game against the Pirates. Hudson would be on schedule to start Sunday after making his final rehab start on Tuesday night for Gwinnett.

Jurrjens seemed to be in trouble from the start on Monday night. He allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach safely and then minimized damage by inducing an inning-ending double play after Andre Ethier's two-out RBI single. This combined with a perfect third inning would serve as his only highlights.

Jurrjens' struggles against the bottom of the Dodgers' order began when James Loney sparked a two-run second inning with a leadoff double. When Juan Uribe and and A.J. Ellis followed with consecutive RBI singles, the Dodgers had generated all of the necessary support for Chris Capuano, who allowed one run and six hits in seven innings.

While pitching for the Mets on Aug. 26, Capuano tossed a two-hit shutout that marked the start of the Braves' late-season collapse.

It appeared the Braves might exact some revenge when they loaded the bases during a 27-pitch first inning. But Capuano escaped the jam with a strikeout of Jason Heyward and rebounded quickly after allowing David Ross to begin the second inning with a homer.

Jurrjens' night ended when Loney, Uribe and Ellis recorded three consecutive singles to start the bottom of what became a two-run fourth inning.

Approximately two hours later, a forgettable night managed to become worse.

"I'm going through a bad stretch," Jurrjens said. "I'm going to keep my head up and keep fighting and bounce back."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.