Jurrjens: Looking to have impact with Braves
John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine.
Jurrjens showed his potential when he started seven games for Detroit late last season, going 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA. In the pressure of a pennant race, he allowed only one hit in his second major league start, leading the Tigers to a 2-1 victory over the eventual AL Eastchampion Cleveland Indians.
The Braves were so impressed they dealt shortstop Edgar Renteria, a five-time AllStar who batted .332 last season, for the young right-hander and another prospect.
“I think they’re crazy,” Jurrjens joked. “It would be an honor to be one of the five starters here.”
Atlanta won’t look so crazy if Jurrjens, a slender pitcher who throws with surprising power, much like a young Pedro Martinez, steps into the void that will soon be available in an aging rotation: Glavine turns 42 before opening day, while Smoltz will be 41 in May.
Jurrjens may not be around at the start of the season, but the Braves clearly believe it’s just a matter of time.
In an interesting twist, Jurrjens landed with the Braves shortly after the team cut ties with the most famous player from Curacao, 10-time Gold Glover Andruw Jones, who had spent his entire career with Atlanta before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the winter.
Jurrjens, who speaks four languages, gives a nod to his Caribbean roots by wearing a shell necklace on the mound.
Baseball has long been a popular sport in Curacao, along with soccer, and Jones making it to the big leagues while still in teens (not to mention hitting two homers in his first World Series game) only increased the number of youngsters back home picking up a bat and ball.
Carl Jurrjens was a big baseball fan long before Jones came along, taking note of Aaron’s career while the Braves were still in Milwaukee.
When the Braves began broadcasting nearly all their games over Ted Turner’s superstation, Jurrjens was able to watch down in Curacao. He endured some terrible teams through the 1980s, but everything changed in ‘91 when Atlanta went from worst-tofirst and made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
A year later, the Braves were on the verge of losing to Pittsburgh in the NL championship series when Cabrera, a little-known pinch-hitter, came through with one of the most dramatic hits in baseball history.
Jair Jurrjens grew up on the island playing mostly third base. He had a good glove and was a fast runner, his father remembered, but his career went in a different direction when he got a chance to pitch at age 16 with a major league scout in attendance.
His father has never attended a Braves game in person, but that will soon change. Jair is working on arrangements to fly in his father for spring training, and he’ll surely be in Atlanta when his kid pitches for the first time at Turner Field.