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Update on JJ's injury and McLouth's struggles


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ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox displayed particular interest while Nate McLouth took batting practice before Monday afternoon's game against the Phillies.

When the struggling center fielder was done taking his swings, he looked toward the bench, got Cox's attention and simply nodded his head in confident fashion.

While comparing video footage earlier this week, Atlanta hitting coach Terry Pendleton noticed that McLouth's batting stance has grown much wider than it was during his successful days with the Pirates. As a result, he has been fighting to gain leverage from his back leg and in the process reducing his ability to catch up to fastballs.

"We're really just trying to bring him back, get him in a more upright position and get both his stance and stride shorter to get in that position he was in a couple of years ago," Pendleton said.

McLouth struggled through Spring Training and provided only a glimmer of promise while notching three multihit games during a five-game stretch earlier this month. But entering Monday, the 28-year-old outfielder had recorded just three hits in his previous 30 at-bats.

ATLANTA -- After experiencing another pain-free bullpen session on Monday afternoon, Braves righty Jair Jurrjens grew excited about the possibility that he could be less than two weeks away from making a Minor League rehab start.

Jurrjens, who has been sidelined since April 29 with a strained left hamstring, will travel with Atlanta to the West Coast later this week to continue his rehab program. If the 24-year-old right-hander proves capable of completing a few more side sessions and a live batting practice session in pain-free fashion, he could make his first rehab start late next week.

"I feel normal," Jurrjens said after Monday's 40-pitch side session. "I just need to get back to getting my conditioning back up and trying to get my location back on my pitches. I've thrown two bullpens in a row with no pain, and I just need to keep building it up right now."

Jurrjens will continue throwing bullpen sessions on an every-other-day basis and also begin to test the strength of his leg with fielding exercises that will require him to push himself while covering first base. Once he completes these hurdles, he will be cleared to make the first of what will be at least two rehab starts.

Even if it is determined that Jurrjens needs to make three rehab starts, it appears he would still be in position to rejoin the rotation before the end of June.

"It would be like making a major trade," manager Bobby Cox said in reference to Jurrjens, who went 14-10 while posting the National League's third-best ERA (2.60) last year.

This has been a tough year for Jurrjens, who went 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA in five starts before suffering the hamstring strain. He reported to Spring Training with inflammation around his right shoulder and then jammed his right hand during an exhibition season at-bat. The latter ailment caused him to have trouble getting a feel for his grip during his first few regular-season starts.

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I think it would to, but with nothing but power teams coming up (Phillies, Twins, DBacks, Rays), I wonder how much of his defense we'll be able to sacrifice. No one has questioned his defense, but we all see he just keeps getting lower and leaning back in his swings. Now that he's working on it, I think he'll be better. Def not a .300 guy, but not the strikeout victim he once was.

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He better work hard, because for every year in the league, Nate's strikout totals have gone up EACH year. With Melky hitting better and able to play CF, McLouth's struggles at the plate haven't been as much of a jolt.

As for JJ, looks like there was a good reason why he didn't look like his old self from last year. Can't wait for him to fortify the starting rotation late June.

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Fri, June 4th

Jurrjens (hamstring) threw 25 pitches in a batting-practice session on Friday, though he remains at least a couple weeks away from returning, the Dodgers' official site reports.

Late-June / early-July seems like a reasonable timeframe for Jurrjens. He's likely to bump Kenshin Kawakami to the bullpen.

Sat, June 5th

Jurrjens ran the bases on Saturday and didn't have any problems with his hamstring, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien reports. Jurrjens also threw a five-minute bullpen session on Friday without any difficulty. He's currently targeting a late June or early July return, and the Braves could send him on a minor league rehab assignment sometime next week.

(via Rotowire.com)

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Happy to hear JJ is continually improving. Will be a great addition to the rotation and help solidify our BP with KK or Med.

I'm not going to hold my breath on Nate. He's been a true disappointment. I still think he has way too much of an upper cut on his swings. Needs to level it out more. But perhaps the adjustment to his stance will help that.

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