Vizcaino to visit Dr. Andrews for elbow
No. 2 Braves prospect hopes to avoid Tommy John surgery
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Braves reliever Arodys Vizcaino avoided Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery when he seemed destined for it two summers ago. The right-hander can only hope to achieve the same fate after he visits with Dr. James Andrews on Monday.
Vizcaino has been sidelined since feeling right elbow discomfort while pitching in the March 3 Grapefruit League opener. An MRI exam performed last week showed inflammation. The Braves are describing his ailment as ulnar neuritis.
After being diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during the 2010 season, Vizcaino rested for a few months and was throwing 95-mph fastballs again in September in instructional league.
Andrews will likely evaluate whether Vizcaino could once again avoid Tommy John surgery with rest. If the 21-year-old reliever undergoes the operation, he will miss the upcoming season.
Vizcaino -- rated by MLB.com as the Braves' second-best prospect and 36th in the entire Minor Leagues -- entered Spring Training with a chance to begin the season in Atlanta's bullpen. The Braves converted him to a relief role at the Double-A level in July and promoted him to the Majors one month later. He proved effective in August before showing signs of fatigue in September.
Results aside, Jurrjens pleased with knee
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens has been encouraged by the fact that his right knee has not been a problem through his first three exhibition starts. At the same time, the Braves right-hander has plenty of reason to be thankful that he has three more starts to iron things out before the start of the regular season.
"I honestly feel really good," Jurrjens said. "I'm just not seeing the results right now. But the main thing is no pain. If I keep getting comfortable and stronger, I'll start seeing the results I want."
Jurrjens allowed four earned runs and nine hits while working four innings during Thursday's 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field. While the line might have looked ugly, the 26-year-old pitcher looked much more comfortable than he had during his first two exhibition starts. Seemingly more confident in the stability of his knee, he looked more aggressive with his delivery and his fastball touched 93 mph.
"I felt good," Jurrjens said. "I threw more strikes. I'm happy with my control. I just wish I could get them to hit the balls to the fielders. There was nothing I could do about those cheap hits."
Jurrjens allowed leadoff doubles in each of his final three innings, including the one that Scott Podsednik recorded after Matt Diaz lost the ball in sun during the second inning. Jimmy Rollins' single fell to the ground in shallow left field between Diaz and shortstop Tyler Pastornicky.
"I just want to keep getting comfortable and start trusting myself and my stuff again," Jurrjens said. "I need to throw more strikes and get ahead early in the count. That's my game. I'm still falling behind a little bit."
Jurrjens missed the final two weeks of the 2010 season because of a torn meniscus in his right knee, and then battled right knee discomfort during every start he made after entering the 2011 All-Star break with a National League-best 1.87 ERA.
"My goal for him during his first four or five starts was to make sure his knee is good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "So far, that is what I have seen."
Diaz working on avoiding being 'pull-happy'
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Diaz experienced a thrill on Thursday when he homered for the first time in a little more than a calendar year. But the Braves outfielder seemed more encouraged about the game-ending lineout he produced while concentrating on ditching the pull-happy tendencies he developed last year.
"Last year, that was one-hopping right to the shortstop," Diaz said.
Diaz spent most of Wednesday focusing on hitting the ball back up the middle or to the opposite field. While combining to hit .263 with no home runs in 251 at-bats with the Pirates and Braves, he had developed a tendency to attempt to pull too many pitches.
The extra time in the cage seemed to benefit Diaz when he kept his hands inside of the baseball and drove Joe Blanton's pitch over the left-center-field wall in the second inning. It stood as one of the few encouraging moments Diaz has produced while hitting .185 (5-for-27) during the first two weeks of the exhibition season.
"It was just an approach issue more than anything," Diaz said. "My swing was off and it wasn't because of my swing. It was more about what I was thinking as I was going to the plate. It got me back focused trying to hit the ball up the middle, where my strength is. I'm going to try to not get pull-happy and stay there the rest of this year."
Diaz's home run was his first since he took Rays left-hander David Price deep during a March 8, 2011 Grapefruit League game.
"It's been about 365 days since I got to circle the bases," Diaz said. "It was in Bradenton off Price. I remember the pitch, it was a 3-1 changeup. It's been a while."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.