UPDATE: Jurrjens to have MRI on sore shoulder

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4606.jpgTuesday: Jurrjens underwent the MRI late Tuesday afternoon, according to the AJC’s Dave O’Brien. The results, however, will not be available until Wednesday.

Monday, 9:42pm: Nothing can kill the optimism of pitchers and catchers quite like three scary letters: M-R-I

Braves fans were kicked in the gut tonight with the news that right-hander Jair Jurrjens will travel to Atlanta later this week for an MRI on his right shoulder. Jurrjens, who turned 24 last month, has experienced some lingering soreness in the shoulder after arriving early to the team’s Spring Training headquarters in Lake Buena Vista. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he told a team official that he felt a “twinge” while flipping a ball underhand during a recent game in his native Curacao.

Doesn’t sound good, but Jurrjens was examined by a team trainer who determined that his rotator cuff and labrum were structurally sound. It all sounds very precautionary, but you can bet that the Braves will do their due diligence with the promising right-hander.

Jurrjens was 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 34 starts last season, logging a new career-high with 215 innings. Concerns about the increased workload (26 2/3 more innings than 2008) are natural, though it doesn’t quite reach “Verducci Effect” levels of concern. It’s worth noting that he served a brief stint on the disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation during the 2007 season as a member of the Tigers. Might mean something. Might not. In any case, good thing the Braves have a pitching surplus! Oh wait.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.