Braves hope demotion will get Jurrjens on track

Braves hope demotion will get Jurrjens on track

Braves hope demotion will get Jurrjens on track
LOS ANGELES -- With their patience exhausted after his struggles were extended in Monday night's loss to the Dodgers, the Braves were left with no other choice but to option Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Now the club can only hope that he eventually proves he can once again be successful at the Major League level.

"It's up to him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He needs to buy into whatever we're going to ask him to do to get back up here. He's going to have to buy into it and trust us."

As Jurrjens enters the final five months leading up to his final arbitration-eligible season, he stands as a potential non-tender candidate. Unless he shows definite improvement the Braves are not going to pay him the $7 million contract he could earn via arbitration. But at the same time, the club certainly does not want to reach a point where it has to non-tender him and get nothing in return.

When asked if Jurrjens needs to alter his mechanics or simply gain confidence in his bothersome right knee, Gonzalez said, "It's almost a redo." He then explained that the 26-year-old will need to focus on mechanics, confidence, arm strength, leg strength, weight training and conditioning.

"It's up to him, and we as an organization are going to try to get him back," Gonzalez said.

All seemed right in Jurrjens' world when he entered last year's All-Star break leading the National League with a 1.87 ERA. But in the 11 starts he has made since then, he has posted a 6.87 ERA and struggled to regain the velocity he generated before right knee discomfort sidelined him for the final two weeks of the 2010 season.

During Jurrjens' first three full Major League seasons, the average velocity of his four-seam fastball rested around 91 mph and he had the ability to occasionally touch 95 mph. But since his right knee became a problem, the average velocity of his four-seam fastball has sat around 89 mph and his max velocity has been closer to 92 mph.

Jurrjens' velocity was down as he proved to be one of the game's most successful pitchers before last year's All-Star break. But his good fortunes disappeared after the break and have not returned. As he posted a 9.37 ERA in four starts this year, the average velocity of his four-seamer has been 88.7 mph.

"It wasn't the JJ we've seen in the past," Gonzalez said. "You can tell from his frustrations on the mound the past three or four starts."