WASHINGTON -- With Jair Jurrjens eligible for arbitration after this season, the Braves certainly did not want to see him struggle to a point where he could be non-tendered and lost with no return at the end of this year. But as he continues to struggle in the Minors, that is looking more like an option they will not be able to avoid.
Several members of the Braves' organization were thrilled when Jurrjens surrendered three hits and tossed eight scoreless innings while pitching for Triple-A Gwinnett against Rochester last Sunday. Finally, it seemed like he could be nearing a return to the Major League level.
But Jurrjens took a step back on Friday night, when he allowed 12 hits (three home runs) and six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against Charlotte. This outing resembled many of the others he has experienced while posting a 5.56 ERA in the seven starts he has made since being optioned to Gwinnett.
Until Jurrjens shows some consistency, the Braves are left with no other choice but to continue paying him his $5.5 million salary while he tries to get right with Gwinnett.
"We made it clear to him and his representative [Scott Boras] that as soon as he pitches to his capabilities, we want him back in the big leagues," Braves general manager Frank Wren said on Saturday afternoon.
This has been Wren's stance since Jurrjens was sent to Gwinnett after posting a 9.37 ERA in four starts for Atlanta this year.
But Jurrjens told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that he got a different sense when he learned Kris Medlen was being sent to Gwinnett to stretch out to be a starting pitcher this week.
"It just shows me what I mean to them," Jurrjens told the AJC. "It doesn't feel good, but that's OK. It's business."
McCann bruised after Venters' pitch hits knee
WASHINGTON -- A bout with the flu forced Brian McCann to miss most of last weekend's disappointing series against the Nationals in Atlanta. Now the Braves' catcher is hoping that a bruised left knee does not sideline him for Sunday's series finale against this same club.
"If I can move around and I can block [pitches in the dirt], I'm going to play, for sure," McCann said.
McCann exited Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Nationals after being hit just above the left knee with a Jonny Venters pitch in the seventh inning. The six-time All-Star catcher appeared to get crossed up on the pitch. After the pitch went into a camera well next to the home dugout, the Nationals had runners on second and third with one out.
"I'm going to get here with the intention to play [Sunday], and go from there," McCann said. "I came out of the game there because I couldn't really go down on my knees to block. That's a big situation there."
After feeling discomfort as he attempted to crouch with manager Fredi Gonzalez and trainer Jeff Porter by his side, McCann limped off the field under his own power. He was replaced by David Ross, who made his first appearance since slightly tweaking his right groin during the opener of last weekend's series against the Nationals.
"It was nice that Rossy was able to come out of that game OK," Gonzalez said.
Ross would be available to start Sunday's game, if necessary, and the Braves are still carrying a third catcher, J.C. Boscan.
Minor feels like he's moving in right direction
WASHINGTON -- Mike Minor was not surprised Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to skip his turn once Friday night's game against the Nationals was postponed by rain. But the left-hander said he is disappointed that he will have to wait an additional six days to attempt to halt his recent struggles.
"The last two starts I've actually felt a lot better," Minor said. "That's why I think I was more excited to get out there [Friday], because I felt better this week. I think that's the biggest disappointment about it. I felt like I was getting somewhere, and now I get skipped."
Before Friday night's game was postponed, Minor was already scheduled to pitch with an extra day of rest. When he makes his next scheduled start on Thursday against the Marlins, he will be starting for the first time in 12 days. But given the 9.95 ERA he has produced in his past six starts, the 24-year-old left-hander can at least appreciate that the Braves have not yet removed him from the starting rotation.
This has been a trying season for Minor, who impressed during Spring Training and then produced a 3.42 ERA in his first four regular-season starts. In the six starts that have followed, he has surrendered 12 home runs and learned that he can no longer simply rely on his changeup to help him escape trouble.
Four of the past five home runs Minor has surrendered have come on changeups.
"At first, it was kind of a shock, because that is supposed to be my best pitch, the changeup," Minor said. "So I kept going to it and kept going to it. Now, I realize I just have to have more pitches to throw for strikes.
"I just feel like I don't set [the changeup] up enough. I don't throw the other pitches enough to counter-balance that. Then when I do throw it, it has to be perfect. It can't be up or over the plate, because I feel they're looking more for that pitch than the fastball."
According to Fangraphs.com, Minor has actually thrown his curveball and slider more frequently while minimizing the frequency that he has thrown both his fastball (62 to 57.2 percent) and changeup (19.2 to 18.6 percent) this year.
"I haven't thrown that many that were great changeups," Minor said. "But it used to be whenever I would throw a changeup, they would miss it ... hitters obviously weren't as good in high school and college as they are now. I just feel like hitters at this level are good enough to see it and sit on it."
Prado showing form which made him All-Star
WASHINGTON -- Through 50 games, Martin Prado's batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage marks were all better than they were during his standout 2010 All-Star season. But the versatile Braves veteran feels like things are a little different than they were two years ago.
"In 2010, I was so locked in on every at-bat, and knew what the pitcher was going to do against me," Prado said. "I can't do that right now. That's the difference."
Still, one year after enduring a disappointing injury-plagued season, Prado seems to be the same dependable offensive threat he was two years ago. Through the first 50 games he had played entering Saturday, he had hit .332, with three home runs, a .408 on-base percentage, and a .495 slugging percentage.
Through his first 50 games in 2010, Prado was hitting .325, with four home runs, a .371 on-base percentage, and a .453 slugging percentage.
"I'm just hoping I can keep this concentration all year," Prado said. "That's all I'm asking."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.