There seems to be a lot of stuff floating around Jair Jurrjens brain right now.
He seems to be worried about his injury-prone right knee, his mechanics, his wildness, maybe even when his name was on everybodys trade list this winter. Whatevers up there, its keeping him from focusing on the really important things, like opposing hitters.
He mentioned his mind isnt where it should be after he was knocked around in his latest spring training start on Tuesday. Jurrjens also looks nothing like the starter he was for the Braves in the first half of 2011, when he was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA, impressive numbers that landed him on the NL All-Star team.
And he sounds nothing like the guy who oozed confidence during an interview in January. He talked about how physically prepared and mentally ready he was for 2012, despite struggling in the second half (5.88 ERA in seven starts) and missing September with his balky right knee.
This was Jurrjens in January: Yes, (the knee is) feeling really good. Im getting more confident, and Im getting stronger. Every day Im trying to get my body to be more balanced, and make everything the same. Everything is strong, right side, left side thing. So its doing good, and Im just excited to get started.
This was Jurrjens after he gave up seven runs on eight hits in five innings in the Detroit Tigers 7-2 win over the Braves on Tuesday, according to MLB.com:
You want to see results, but this is still spring training. I'm not happy with the way I'm pitching. But I'm not going to go crazy either. I'm still trying to figure out a lot of stuff and trying to get more comfortable.
His performance at the Tigers Joker Marchant Stadium not only raised more riddles about Jurrjens, it raised his spring ERA to 10.13. He has given up 15 earned runs in 13 13 innings to go with 10 walks and only eight strikeouts, and his performance this spring has been indicative of all of the Braves prospective starters, other than Mike Minor. Their ERAs through March 20:
Brandon Beachy, 6.00
Tommy Hanson, 6.00
Randall Delgado, 6.92
Julio Teheran, 9.00
Thats in distinct contrast to the ERAs of the Braves top starters from 2011 spring training:
Tim Hudson, 1.35
Derek Lowe, 3.09
With Hudson out until May and Hanson recovering from shoulder problems and a concussion, Jurrjens seemed like a sure bet to be the opening day starter when the Braves face the New York Mets on April 5. But manager Fredi Gonzalez said that decision will be made next week when asked about it after the Braves fell to 5-13-2 this spring.
Whats interesting is this springs struggles are uncharacteristic for Jurrjens, who has had only one spring ERA higher than 3.43 in his career. That was in 2008, his first camp with the Braves after being traded from Detroit, and Jurrjens recovered from that tough spring to go 13-10 and lead all rookies with a 3.68 ERA in the regular season.
One can only wonder if Jurrjens might be covering for his knee or some other physical ailment and doesnt want to lose his spot in the rotation.
Some alarmists on Internet comment threads are clamoring for Kris Medlin to take Jurrjens spot -- the Braves have decided to keep Medlin in the bullpen to start the season or for Jurrjens to be sent to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Those are extreme moves.
Jurrjens is scheduled to make two more starts this spring, so he has time to clear his thoughts, find his confidence and the strike zone. And he just turned 26 years old.
The Braves are willing to be patient with him. So should you.