KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens started pitching scared this spring and it showed.
The Atlanta Braves starter is coming off two straight years of injuries to his right knee that forced him to miss most of September last season while the Braves blew a big lead for the National League wild card.Jurrjens has struggled all spring, but pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run and striking out four, in a 3-1 win over a Houston Astros split squad on Friday.Jurrjens went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Braves last season, but missing September was a big reason why the Braves missed the postseason.After struggling earlier this spring, Jurrjens said he needed to worry about the basics."I have my control back and my pitches are starting to work," Jurrjens said after his second straight quality start. "I needed a big boost mentally after I got off to a tough start, but I have had two big ones now. I feel good."Jurrjens said it's been tough to keep the knee injury out of his mind. The knee is the one he uses to push off to throw.With Tim Hudson out of the rotation until at least May with a back injury, it is up to Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson to pitch well."I've been dealing with the pain," Jurrjens said. "I just decided to start pitching like the old J.J. I was hesitating when I had to push off. I was scared."Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez likes what he is seeing from Jurrjens as spring training winds down."That's two straight good outings and all of his pitches were working," Gonzalez said. "He knows he is close to pitching big innings for us."Jurrjens said the key is to be more aggressive and stop thinking about the knee.Kyle Weiland, one of three candidates for the final two spots in the Houston rotation, allowed three runs in six innings.He got off to a rocky start, as the Braves opened the first with a triple and two doubles, but he allowed only two hits the rest of the way while striking out five.Weiland, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox where he made his major league debut last season, said he feels as if he has a reasonable shot with spring training winding down."I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself," Weiland said. "We have three guys going for two jobs. Things get worse when you try to do too much."Weiland said he didn't mind going from the perennially contending Red Sox to a team that lost 106 games last season."I love being a part of a turnaround," Weiland said. "There are a lot of exciting things happening around here."The Braves scored all three runs in the first off Weiland. Luis Durango opened the inning with a triple that was followed by doubles from Jack Wilson and Freddie Freeman. Wilson and Freeman each had two hits.Chris Snyder homered for the Astros.
Prior to the game, the Braves signed RHP Livan Hernandez to a major league deal, just hours after he was released by the Houston Astros. Hernandez went 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA for the Washington Nationals last season. ... 3B Chipper Jones and RHP Arodys Vizcaino have been placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. Jones is suffering from left knee surgery and Vizcaino underwent successful Tommy John surgery and is expected to be out for the season. ... Hanson will start for the Braves against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday followed by RHP Craig Kimbrel and RHP Cory Gearrin. RHP Justin Verlander will start for the Tigers.