Jair Jurrjens started in one of Atlanta’s split squad games Friday against Houston and had one of his best outings of the spring, throwing seven innings and allowing just five hits and one run in the Braves’ 3-1 win.
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.
Hernandez joins Braves after Astros cut him
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Livan Hernandez agreed Friday to a $750,000, one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves, a short time after he was released from a minor league deal with the Houston Astros.
After being released at noon, Hernandez arrived at the Braves’ spring training complex, about 15 miles away.
Hernandez is the active leader in starts (474) and innings (3,121 2-3). He was the opening-day starter for Washington last season and went 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA in 29 starts.
Hernandez is a two-time All Star and helped Florida win the 1997 World Series. He also spent time with San Francisco, Montreal, Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado and the New York Mets before re-signing with the Expos/Nationals in 2009.
Hernandez has a career record of 174-176 with a 4.39 ERA.
He can earn an a maximum of $750,000 in performance bonuses. He would get $125,000 each for 110, 120, 130, 140, 150 and 160 innings, and $50,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 games.
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.
Astros topple Braves 5-1
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro feels he is all the way back from the right knee injury that cost him the 2011 season.
Castro caught all nine innings of Friday night’s 5-1 split-squad victory over the Atlanta Braves.
He added a couple of hits, raising his batting average to .333 in 39 at-bats.
“I made some mechanical adjustments in my swing. It was something I was going to put in last year before I got hurt,” Castro said.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that so I’ve had a little extra time to get comfortable with those adjustments. I think offense is a big part of my game and hopefully I can just continue to show that.”
Most importantly for the Astros, Castro is back behind the plate and handling pitchers the way he did in 2010.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” manager Brad Mills said.
Castro tore his ACL in Houston’s second exhibition game last March and underwent season-ending surgery a few days later.
There have been no signs of it this spring.
“I put in a lot of work to get where I’m at right now so I’m really happy with the way things have gone,” he said. “Hopefully I can carry this into the season. I’m really happy with how my body’s responding the day after I’m catching.”
Bud Norris pitched six strong innings for the Astros and Chris Johnson’s two-run single highlighted a four-run fourth inning off Atlanta starter Randall Delgado.
Norris gave up three hits and no walks, working through six innings after not pitching more than three in earlier exhibition starts.
“I wanted to get out there and extend myself,” said Norris, one of only three pitchers who have been picked for the Astros rotation going into the final weekend of spring training.
“I’m glad they gave me the extra two days to get back to 100 percent and it showed today.
“I got a lot of ground balls and I worked really well with Castro. We are definitely on the same page.”
Delgado pitched 4 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and five runs.
A couple of walks and a bunt by Jason Bucks set up Houston’s four-run inning. Johnson and Castro followed with singles for a 4-0 lead.