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.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs’ pitching coach

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the pitching coach due to personal reasons. The club will begin a search for a replacement.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement, “Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons. We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey, 57, spent over a decade as a coach in the Rays organization before joining the Cubs for the past season, reuniting with Joe Maddon. The Cubs’ starting staff ranked 10th among all 30 teams with a 3.84 ERA and the bullpen posted an NL-best 3.35 ERA.