Bill Shanks has some thoughts on the struggles of Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor.
Braves will try to be patient with Mike Minor
I'm shocked with his struggles. Minor had such a great spring training, and he had three great starts in a row before he had this four-game funk. He had given up only four earned runs in 20.1 innings in three appearances in April.
So is he tipping his pitches? Is it mechanical? Is it mental? Is it his stuff? Well, I think his stuff is fine, so it has to be something mechanical that is just off right now. It happens to pitchers, but it's tough to happen to a 23-year-old that is trying to stay in the big leagues.
The Braves would undoubtedly prefer to not send down another member of their opening day rotation to Triple-A. They've already done that with Jair Jurrjens. So the preference must be for Minor to work things out in the majors.
That's where pitching coach Roger McDowell comes in. Now I'm not putting everything on McDowell and taking Minor off the hook, but a pitching coach is most effective when one of his pitchers needs his help. And Minor seems to need the help from someone.
They will likely look closely at video tape and analyze if there are any changes from spring training, when Minor did very well. Hopefully, they can figure this out, because it's got to be a surprise to everyone who believed Minor was ready to win 12-17 games this season.
If Minor has two more bad starts, the Braves might have a choice but to send him to Gwinnett. Again, they can't have any desire to do that yet. But they can't have a pitcher on the mound not giving the team a chance to win either.
Julio Teheran, who is pitching tonight for Gwinnett, is having another good season in AAA. He'd be in the major leagues with about 90% of the other big league teams. So if Teheran keeps doing well and the Braves can't get Minor on track, there may be no other choice but to swap the two pitchers.
I think Minor has good stuff. I like him and his potential a lot, so I hope the Braves don't give up on him. But this is a tricky situation when you're trying to win games and one of your starters is struggling this much. They don't want to lose Minor, so they're going to be very careful and hope he works it out.
One pitcher that hasn't worked it out yet is Jair Jurrjens, who had a nightmare game last night in Buffalo. Sources with the Gwinnett team said his performance was as bad as the line indicated.
"He was terrible," said the AAA source via text.
So now, after Jurrjens had three good starts, the Braves have to wonder what to do next. Do you let him have a week off just to get away? I'm not saying let him go on some vacation to the south of France, but is this a mental thing that could be helped by him skipping a start so he can re-evaluate his future?
His future is in jeopardy – at least with the Atlanta Braves. No pitcher can afford to get out of the line. If you do, someone may pass you. I mean, is there any way you'd prefer Jurrjens over Randall Delgado right now?
Of course you wouldn't. Delgado is doing very well and has shown he belongs in the big league rotation. Jurrjens looks lost, and when a pitcher that has had the success Jurrjens has had takes this much of a fall, you have to wonder if he'll ever get it back.
I think he will, but I'm not sure it'll be with Atlanta. He's a long way from getting his job back in the big league rotation. If he doesn't watch out, Jurrjens might become Kenshin Kawakami and find himself in Double-A Mississippi.
The Braves need him to work things out, so he can regain some sort of value and they can trade him away. If not, he's going to be the first major leaguer non-tendered this winter when they can pull the trigger.
It certainly would be a shame if the Braves can't get anything for Jurrjens. This guy was in the Cy Young conversation 10 months ago, and now he's in baseball pitching hell. I hate it for him. He's a good kid, but he's got to figure out what's wrong and fix this.
I'm not sure if Jurrjens is still saying that he's healthy. At this point you almost hope he is hurt so he'll have an excuse. But if he is healthy, the Braves have little options but to keep working with him in bullpen sessions. Then they have to hope he turns it around.
The old saying goes, ‘You can never have too much pitching.' We're finding out why that is truer than any other baseball axiom right now, aren't we?
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA, WHAL Fox Sports 1460 in Columbus, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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