Orioles sign Jair Jurrjens to minor league contract

The Baltimore Sun

The wait on Jair Jurrjens is finally over.

Three weeks after the right-hander reportedly agreed to a major league deal with the Orioles, the club announced Friday night that it has instead signed Jurrjens to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training.

Jurrjens, 27, is expected to arrive in camp Saturday, in time for the team’s first full-squad workout of the spring.

According to sources, Jurrjens and the Orioles agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million major league deal (with $2.5 million more available in bonuses) on Jan. 25, pending a physical. The results of that physical became a sticking point, though, especially because of the nagging problems Jurrjens has had with his right knee.

But the team still felt good enough about Jurrjens’ outlook to give him a minor league deal.

"Jair Jurrjens has a good track record and is still young," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said in a text message. "We hope he can regain the form which made him an All-Star in 2011."

Since becoming a National League All-Star in 2011, Jurrjens has struggled. Last season, he was 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) for the Atlanta Braves, spending much of the season at Triple-A. The Braves did not tender him a contract this winter, making him a free agent.

Jurrjens owns a 53-37 career record and 3.62 ERA. He was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA at the 2011 All-Star break, but had lost seven of his last 11 big league decisions since then.

After days of vetting Jurrjens’ medical information, the Orioles have been closing in on a minor league deal over the past two days. That came to fruition Friday night.

Jurrjens had been working out in Tampa, which is roughly an hour north of the Orioles' spring home in Sarasota.

Signing Jurrjens to a minor league deal is a low-cost maneuver. He will likely compete for a job in the Orioles’ starting rotation, but if he doesn’t make it, he can be sent to Triple-A Norfolk. He has two minor league options remaining, but those options would only come into play once he is added to the team's 40-man roster.

Jurrjens underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee following the 2010 season to repair a torn meniscus but said last week that he believed the leg never regained strength last season. Jurrjens saw a dip in velocity, his average fastball speed dropping 2.7 mph since the end of the 2010 season.

But he said the knee feels much stronger now and is confident he can regain the form that made him one of the NL’s most promising young starters less than two years ago.

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