When right-hander Jair Jurrjens is in Baltimore to take a physical next week -- seemingly the final step before the Orioles’ one-year major league deal with the former Atlanta Braves pitcher comes to fruition -- he expects to speak with team officials about whether he will participate in the World Baseball Classic this spring.
Jurrjens, who agreed to a $1.5 million deal that could be worth up to $4 million with incentives, is listed on the Netherlands’ provisional roster for the WBC, but said Friday that he’s "50/50" whether he will play. Jurrjens is a native of Curacao, a Caribbean island which is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A major league team can not tell a player it doesn’t want him to participate in the World Baseball Classic, but Jurrjens said he wants to speak with the Orioles to get their take on him participating.
“I’m still thinking about it,” Jurrjens said. “I think when I get my physical, I’m going to talk to the front office people and see what they think about it and I’ll make my decision.”
Choosing whether to pitch in the WBC is a difficult one, especially for a pitcher who will be joining a new organization trying to earn a starting rotation spot. The Orioles could have as many as 11 pitchers -- most who have been in the organization for years -- competing for five rotation spots this spring.
Two Orioles pitchers, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (Mexico) and closer Jim Johnson (United States) have already turned down the chance to play in the World Baseball Classic. Both said they couldn’t miss time away from major league camp. Gonzalez is coming off a season in which he pitched 220 innings and Johnson was slowed by lower back discomfort last spring.
Jurrjens faces the same dilemma. A National League All-Star in 2011, he’s coming off his worst major league season last year. He went 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA in 11 big league appearances and spent the majority of last season in Triple-A. He said he feels as healthy as he's been in years, but questions about his right knee linger.
He had surgery on the joint following the 2010 season and has had setbacks with the knee since and pitched with a knee brace throughout the 2012 season. Jurrjens also said he dealt with a right quad injury, which he cited for his diminished fastball velocity last season.
Jurrjens knows he will have to prove himself in camp. And even though he obviously appears torn, it sounds like he is leaning toward not playing in the WBC. I don’t think the Orioles would talk him out of that.
“I still want to play with my friends and represent my country,” Jurrjens said. “But I’m with a new team and I really want to bond with them and get the chemistry going in spring training.”
Jurrjens said Friday a physical hasn’t been planned, but he expected to have one by the middle of next week.