Will Jair Jurrjens pitch again for the Braves?

BY foxsports • July 23, 2012

We might have seen the last of Jair Jurrjens in an Atlanta Braves uniform.

Jurrjens’ long fall from the heaven he experienced in the first half of 2011 reached another, once-unthinkable low point on Sunday. He showed again that he’s not fooling major league hitters.

The Braves can’t afford to send him out every fifth day, especially with a staff that has given up at least nine runs in four of the past seven games.

It seems Jurrjens has been pitching from a mound made of quicksand, and he may be disappearing from the Braves’ plans.

Jurrjens had another disastrous start Sunday, giving up six runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the Nationals. He faced 15 batters; nine of them had hits, two of which were home runs off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman.

It closely resembled many of his other outings in 2012:

-- Seven hits, five runs in 5 1/3 innings on April 13

-- Seven hits, four runs in four innings on April 18

-- Nine hits, five runs in three innings on April 23

-- Eight hits, eight runs in 3 1/3 innings on July 17

And those don’t include his time at Triple-A Gwinnett, where his ERA was 5.18 in 10 starts.

That two-month exile was meant for Jurrjens to fix the wrongs, whether mental, physical or mechanical, and come back to Atlanta resembling the pitcher who went 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA in the first three months of 2011.

It worked for four starts.

Jurrjens made a triumphant return to the majors with a remarkable performance against the Red Sox, holding them to three hits at Fenway Park on June 22. Six days later, he stymied the Diamondbacks for 6 1/3 innings.

The Cubs were the next victims, although Jurrjens left after no earned runs in five innings on July 3. And then he held the Phillies to three runs and six hits in seven innings five days after that.

He appeared to be on his way back. He appeared to be returning to the form that made him one of the Braves’ most consistent winners for parts of four seasons.

But now it seems those four starts were the blip, not the second half of last year, his poor April or his pitiful past two starts. Jurrjens has given up 17 hits and 14 runs and opponents are hitting .515 against him in his past 5 2/3 innings.

Even more telling, he is 4-7 with a 6.50 ERA in his past 17 starts, dating to his stellar outing (1 2/3 scoreless innings) in the 2011 All-Star Game.

"That's just two bad starts," Jurrjens said after Sunday’s game. "I know it's really two ugly ones, but ever since I came up, I've been dependable. Hopefully they give me a chance to prove myself again."

Even though he’s just 26 years old, Jurrjens is running out of opportunities.

He’s certainly been successful at times, but Jurrjens hasn’t always been dependable. He has spent a considerable amount of time on the DL, making five trips there since 2007.

He also was absent for the final two weeks of the stretch drive in 2010, when the Braves clinched the wild card, and then again last September, when they just missed the playoffs.

Jurrjens also makes $5.5 million a year, one of the reasons the club shopped him to several teams last winter.

I would expect some sort of decision to be made sometime this week regarding Jurrjens. His next scheduled start is Sunday, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t ready to commit about Jurrjens in the moments after Sunday’s loss.

The Braves are pursuing at least one other starter and could turn to any potential new pitcher or Randall Delgado for that start.

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