The reason the Braves didn't blanch when the Phillies signed Cliff Lee in the offseason is that they were so high on their own starting four -- right-hander Derek Lowe, right-hander Tim Hudson, right-hander Tommy Hanson, right-hander Jair Jurrjens -- and had two excellent rookie prospects for their fifth starter, right-hander Brandon Beachy and left-hander Mike Minor.
Beachy ended up beating Minor for the job, earning the April 4 start against the Brewers, but Minor joined the Braves in Washington over the weekend after Jurrjens was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right oblique.
Jurrjens pronounced himself good to go for his scheduled start against the Brewers on April 6 after a pain-free bullpen on April 3. But that wasn't good enough for manager Fredi Gonzalez, who has given the start to Minor.
Jurrjens hasn't faced live hitting since he left the March 24 spring training game against the Blue Jays. Side sessions and simulated games simply are not the same.
In sending Jurrjens to pitch three or four simulated innings against the Triple A Gwinnett Braves on April 6, then pitching five or six innings in a G-Braves game on April 11, Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren want to ensure that the oblique will make it beyond an inning or two.
If Jurrjens started against the Brewers as planned and had to come out after an inning or two, Gonzalez might have to use his entire bullpen, with dire consequences for the four-game series in Milwaukee.
To say nothing of this weekend's home opening series versus the Phillies.
Minor should get another start, as the Braves are targeting April 16 against the Mets for Jurrjens's 2011 debut. That's at the earliest.
Minor says he feels more comfortable in the clubhouse this time around. A 2009 first round draft pick, he pitched a lot of baseball before he joined the Braves last season, and complained of general fatigue -- as opposed to arm fatigue -- at the end of 2010, when he was 3-2 with a 5.98 ERA for the Braves.
Beachy gave up only four hits in six innings, one the first home run he has allowed in the majors, but settled for a no-decision when the Braves came back from a 1-0 deficit to win the game 2-1 on solo home runs in the eighth by Martin Prado and Dan Uggla.
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