After throwing just 48.1 disastrous innings over 10 starts in 2012, then seeing his season cut short by a groin injury, Jair Jurrjens‘ one-year deal worth $1.5 million with the Baltimore Orioles was supposed to be a chance for redemption, and for the righty to show the baseball world that he still has the upside that could make him the staff ace of a surprising division contender.
Jurrjens may never get the chance to do so. Not as long as there are still serious concerns about his health, anyway.
The team has been going through the process of evaluating the 27-year-old’s health since the deal was agreed to, and if they were worried about it then, it’s only gotten worse at this point. According to multiple sources, including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, the focus is on the strength of Jurrjen’s right knee, which the team believes was a primary culprit behind his loss of velocity over the last couple of seasons.
Atlanta Braves fans already know what that’s all about, of course. Jurrjens was a Jeykll and Hyde act in 2011 – simply brilliant for the first half (1.87/1.07 ERA/WHIP), and terrible after the break (5.88/1.65 ERA/WHIP), as his already diminishing fastball velocity topped an 89.0+ average in just two of his final seven starts.
The righty spent time on the DL because of his knee in the second half, and missed the final month of the season due to the same problem. You’d have to imagine that the same issue caused Jurrjens to average only 88.6 mph on his fastball last season, and the Orioles want to make sure that whatever wasn’t right with him is fixed before they commit any amount of money to him.
Team executive vice president Dan Duquette recently called the situation around Jurrjens’ health “a process”, and it’s one that the team will look to resolve by Spring Training. Whether the resolution will be a happy one for the former Braves pitcher is still yet to be seen, although Encina did seem to think that it “doesn’t seem like it’s heading in a positive direction.”
If the deal does fall through because of the right-hander’s ongoing health issues, it’s difficult to say that it would significantly impact the Orioles’ plans for 2013. Yes, they had hoped Jurrjens would be a low-risk acquisition that could give the team’s rotation a high-upside type with bit of experience, but the team still has an impressive collection of arms that will be competing for rotation jobs this coming season, including the likes of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Zack Britton.
A healthy Jurrjens would have been a nice addition, but it was something they’d have to hope for in the first place. As it turns out, the team may have been a little too optimistic in this case.