KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens might have been the best pitcher in the National League in the first half of last season.
Eight months later, the Atlanta Braves right-hander was happy to get through his first spring training appearance without any pain in his right knee."I was trying to get the feel of pushing off and not feeling anything, and I think I succeeded in pushing off with no pain," Jurrjens said after pitching two innings in a 10-5 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday.Jurrjens threw 47 pitches and was charged with two runs and three hits. The right-hander struck out none and walked one."I think at times I tried to do too much and I left some balls up," he said. "But I think if we see the whole picture, I made some quality pitches and I got some soft fly balls. I went to (the slider) too much against lefties and put myself in the hitters' count too much. But that's what spring training is for, to see what you can use in the season."Dan Uggla homered and Jason Heyward had a two-run single for Atlanta, which scored six times in the last three innings. Uggla and Brian McCann each went 2 for 3.Houston starter Jordan Lyles gave up two runs and four hits in two innings. Jed Lowrie, Matt Downs and J.B. Shuck each had two of the Astros' 11 hits.Jurrjens was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA in his first 16 starts last year, but finished with a 13-6 record. He made his last appearance on Aug. 30, no small factor in the collapse of the Braves."Right now I'm just trying to get the strength in my legs back, and see if I feel anything, too. So far, so good, and I'll just keep working on it," Jurrjens said."My leg is responding really well to everything, and that's the only thing you can ask for."The 21-year-old Lyles also had mediocre results."It's to be expected the first time out facing live hitters," he said. "I made a couple pitches to get ground balls, but they found holes. Hats off to them, but it really came down to me falling behind guys and throwing too many pitches in that first inning."
LHP Zach Duke, a non-roster invitee competing with Lyles for a spot in the rotation, worked three innings in his spring debut. He allowed one run and three hits. ... Uggla's first spring homer came off Xavier Cedeno, who struck out the other three Braves he faced. ... Carlos Lee is expected to play first base for the Astros on Tuesday after missing the first three games with a strained right hamstring.