HOUSTON -- Based on the success that he's enjoyed during his rookie season, Jair Jurrjens could take the mound for the Braves for many years to come. But instead of making his scheduled start in Sunday's season finale against the Astros, he'll watch as Mike Hampton make what might be his final start with the Braves.
Although he has thrown 45 more innings than he had during any previous professional season, Jurrjens appears to be physically sound. But it still made more sense to the Braves to shut him down and give Hampton one more chance to improve his credentials as he prepares for the uncertainty that awaits on the free-agent market.
"It gives me another chance to prove what I can do, so I'm happy," said Hampton, who has made 12 consecutive starts since missing nearly three full seasons while recovering from separate elbow surgeries and battling other ailments.
While Hampton is open to the possibility of returning to Atlanta next year, Jurrjens has established himself as a pitcher who could benefit the Braves for at least five more seasons. The 22-year-old right-hander tied for the lead among all Major League rookies with 13 wins and posted a 3.68 ERA.
During Monday's start against the Phillies, Jurrjens allowed just two first-inning runs in a seven-inning effort. Along the way, he impressed Braves manager Bobby Cox with a regular display of 94-mph fastballs.
"He's some kind of competitor," Cox said.
Before Friday night's series opener against the Astros, Cox told Jurrjens to keep himself ready in case he needs to start on Sunday. But the plan is to avoid any potential risk and allow Hampton to once again show he can simultaneously pitch and remain healthy.
Hampton, who is in the final year of an eight-year, $121 million contract, missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons while rehabbing from elbow surgeries. His delayed return didn't come until July 26. Since battling some initial rust, he's enjoyed an eight-start stretch during which he's posted a 3.63 ERA.
"I'm happy with the way things have been going so far," Hampton said. "I don't know who, but I'm going to help some team next year."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.