San Bernardino, California —— Veteran big league free agents Jair Jurrjens and Daniel Schlereth both pitched this week against KBO team KT Wiz at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino. The pair, both now north of 30 years old with a combined 850 big league innings to their names (most via Jurrjens), are working out this month with a “prospect” team made up of minor league free agents all hoping to catch on with an organization for spring training and the 2018 season. I saw both Jurrjens (once) and Schlereth (twice) pitch this week while their team played exhibition games against the KT Wiz; below are a few notes and velocities on each free agent, and full game video of their respective outings.
Jair Jurrjens, RHP
Now 32 years old, Jair Jurrjens spent most of 2017 with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ organization, though his year was derailed by a PED suspension mid-season. He’s back now as a free agent, and evidently looking for a place to pitch in 2018. On Thursday afternoon in San Bernardino, Jurrjens allowed a run in two innings of work, starting the game against the KT Wiz but working exclusively from the stretch even with nobody on base. He sat 88-91 mph with his fastball, which showed subtle arm-side run and a bit of sink. He paired it with a sharp, tight and well-spotted 74-77 mph slider, and a looser 76-79 mph changeup that flashed a little bit of arm-side fade.
Jurrjens looks to me to be in very good shape; randomly, I was there in person for his most recent (brief) big league stint with the Colorado Rockies in 2014, and at that point his lower half was sloppier and he was in markedly worse shape than what appears to be the case now. His lower half is strong and tight now, and his velocity is pretty good for this point of the season, especially relative to recent velo splits that are publicly available. He still hides the ball very well, and a 90 mph fastball out of his hand explodes to the plate with the feel of being significantly harder than what registers on the gun. At one point in his life, Jair Jurrjens was a very successful big league starter, though those days were brief and, at this point, nearly a decade ago. Now 32 years old with a PED suspension to his name and without big league service time for several years, the righty isn’t going to get too many more chances at affiliated ball; there still appears to be enough life in his arm for a shot at a middling Triple-A gig this summer, but I can’t imagine we ever see him in the big leagues again.
Daniel Schlereth, LHP
Following Jair Jurrjens in Thursday’s exhibition game in San Bernardino was veteran left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth, he of Detroit Tigers fame who spent parts of four seasons (2009-2012) in the big leagues as a reliever. Schlereth had a decent year last summer in the Miami Marlins‘ organization (39:18 K:BB ratio, 6.5 H/9, 8.4 K/9 in 41.2 innings), but he’ll be 32 years old in eight weeks and he has a limited profile as a left-handed situational reliever working in short stints. On Thursday, Schlereth’s fastball sat 87-91 mph (four-seam 89-91, sinker 87-89), and he paired it with an extremely sharp, hard 76-79 mph curveball that drew some really bad swings from a few KBO veterans at the plate. As with Jair Jurrjens, age is an issue, but Daniel Schlereth appears to be a healthy lefty with a pulse and a good hook — so perhaps there’s another affiliated gig soon in the works.
Until then, they’re both grinding it out for this “prospect” team of recently released minor league free agents busy barnstorming around southern California against KBO teams and anybody else who will play them. Hats off to them both for pushing through it on a team primarily made up of mid-level minor leaguers nearly a decade younger who were recently released; former farmhands Zach Nehrir (Diamondbacks) and Richard Prigatano (Rockies) are among the standard mid-20s fare on this ball club.
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