Braves’ Tyrell Jenkins is an interesting one to watch

 

Tyrell Jenkins is an affable sort who quickly acknowledges he’s young and has a whole lot to learn and improve upon if he’s to reach his goals.

But the Braves rookie also is bright and I’m sure he knows exactly the image he’s portraying. Beneath it, there’s a mighty big competitive streak that occasionally slips through in his comments, usually followed by a smile that makes something that’s a little brash instead sound charming, disarming. He’s a cool dude and simply a good guy — it’s evident the first time you meet him and even more every time you talk to him after that. Being a good guy is huge plus for the guys you’re relying on, folks.

Tyrell Jenkins goes for his second MLB win in his second home start Thursday. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Tyrell Jenkins goes for his second MLB win in his second home start Thursday. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Anyway, Jenkins makes his fifth start tonight for the Braves, and we could be watching the beginnings of a pitcher who’ll become special in Atlanta. They have so many young ones who’ve arrived just ahead of him and a truckload coming behind him, but there’s something about Jenkins, who turned 24 a couple of weeks ago and has pitched a lot less than many prospects a couple of years younger, due to the fact he was a big-time football recruit (quarterback) in Texas who focused much of his attention on that sport until after high school.

And so, he wasn’t your typical baseball-only guy that we see so most of the time these days. The pluses are that he’s still just scratched the surface of his talent, most likely, and his arm might also have significantly less wear and tear than those pitch-nine-months-a-year-in-their-teens guys who come out of high school throwing mid- to upper-90s fastballs already complemented by a couple of off-speed pitches they’ve honed by torquing their arms for years.

Tonight, Jenkins makes his fifth start and second at Turner Field. Jenkins is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA and .260 opponents’ average in four starts, compared to a 5.79 ERA and .316 OA in four relief appearances – he was in the bullpen for more than a month in Triple-A and the majors before slipping back into his preferred and accustomed starter role.

His MLB starter statistics were inflated by one bad – really bad — start July 24 at Colorado when he gave up eight hits, seven runs, three homers and five walks in 3 1/3 innings.

Jenkins has an impressive 1.62 ERA in his other three starts, allowing four runs (three earned) and 12 hits in 16 2/3 innings, with nine walks and seven strikeouts. Even more impressively, two of those three starts were at the other most hitter-friendly ballparks in the NL, at Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Just got to cut down on those walks. That’s a must.

In his most recent start and first at Turner Field on Friday, Jenkins recorded his first major league win, limiting the Phillies to four hits and one unearned run in six innings with four walks (one intentional) and four strikeouts in a 2-1 game. (In two of his other three starts the Braves scored one and no runs while he was in the game.)

Here’s what he had to say Wednesday about facing the Pirates tonight and continuing to develop as a big-league starter.

On the absurdity of his four starts being the second-most in the current Braves rotation, with Julio Teheran on the DL, Lucas Harrell traded and Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair at Triple-A:

“That’s crazy. I’m still learning from Folty and Julio and other guys I see  pitch, and from video, I’m learning from everybody. Even De La (rookie Joel De La Cruz), and I’ll learn from Rob (Whalen in the rookie’s debut Wednesday). I’m still getting better. We’re all getting better. So just be patient with us and we’ll give you guys all we’ve got.”

“(Thursday is) going to be fun. Hopefully I can make some good pitches and get us out on top.”

On saying he was glad to be facing the Pirates and a strong lineup, that he prefers facing good teams:

“Of course. It’s the big leagues, you want to face the best level of competition. That’s only going to make us better as a team, as a pitching staff and as a young group. To go out there and face those guys (Pirates) and the rest of the year face some quality hitters and teams, it’ll be fun.”

“I felt like my last time was the first one that I felt really comfortable. Just letting the ball go. I was hitting some spots, and when I missed I wasn’t getting too fine and didn’t get hurt too much. I think being aggressive and attacking hitters (was the key).”

On recently eliminating his wind-up, or at least most of it (his delivery with no runners on base now isn’t much different than pitching from the stretch with runners on):

“I kind of do have a wind-up; you can’t really see it. It’s more like my stretch, but I just take, like, a rocking step forward and then low and go. I think that helps me out, helps me get into a rhythm. Not thinking too much, just a rock, lift and go. The thing with me is, the less I think the better I pitch. If I’m going to start thinking about my mechanics, doing this arm slot, it’s going to get a little confusing and that won’t go well.

“I think (pitching coaches) Roger (McDowell) and Marty (Reed) did a good job of helping me simplify that, and it paid a little dividends last week. It wasn’t the best; hopefully I can cut down on the walks and try to go at least nine next time.”

On first using the simple delivery at Colorado, but forgetting and reverting to more of a wind-up there a few times. Last week was first time he really did it consistently:

“This last game was the first time I really got into it, and it felt great. Like I said, try to eliminate that fourth inning and have things go smoother,”

The opponent: Tonight the Braves and Jenkins face veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who has a 1.29 ERA and .231 opponents’ average in two starts this season – albeit one lasting only two innings – compared to a 4.91 ERA and .281 OA in 10 relief appearances.

Left-handers have hit .364 (12-for-33) against him with a .475 OBP and .576 slugging percentage, while righties have hit .200 (10-for-50) with a .259 OBP and .420 slugging.

He’s been getting crushed with none on and none out – basically, leading off innings – when opponents are batting .417 (10-for-24) with seven extra-base hits (three homers) with a 1.000 slugging percentage.

Vogelsong is 2-3 with a 5.08 ERA in eight games (five starts) against the Braves, and in his only appearance against them this season he gave up five hits and three runs in 1 2/3 relief innings May 17 at Pittsburgh. That was a 12-9 Pirates win in Brian Snitker’s first game as Braves interim manager, when Aaron Blair gave up nine hits and nine runs in 1 1/3 innings (Blair was sent to Triple-A the next day).

Against Vogelsong, Freddie Freeman is 7-for-17 with two homers, Braves newcomer Matt Kemp is 12-for-39 (.308) with a homer and seven RBIs, Adonis Garcia is 1-for-1 with a homer and Ender Inciarte is 2-for-15. (Vogelsong is probably glad a couple of Braves are currently on their Triple-A roster: Omar Infante is 7-for-11 against Vogelsong and catcher Michael McKenry is 4-for-11 with two homers against him).

• I’ll close with this live version of a masterpiece from R.E.M. By the way, in my opinion there still hasn’t been any better rock band in subsequent years since R.E.M. at its peak, with the majesty, power and emotion they displayed. Several bands since peak R.E.M. have been about as good (Radiohead, Nirvana, Wilco, Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, etc.), but none clearly better, in my view. This is obviously all subjective, so don’t get indignant on me if you disagree. But if you do disagree, you’re wrong :).  Also, please note I said since. Not before. I’m not including the likes of previous bands (The Clash, Beatles, Ramones, Parliament/Funkadelic, Stones, Led Zep, Skynyrd, Velvet Underground, Springsteen & E-Street, etc.) or some bands that came along at about the same time (The Replacements, Husker Du, The Smiths, Prince & the Revolution). I said since.

“I BELIEVE” by R.E.M.

R.E.M.

R.E.M.

When I was young and full of grace, and spirited a rattlesnake
When I was young and fever fell, my spirit I will not tell
You’re on your honor not to tell

I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract
Explain the change, the difference between
What you want and what you need, there’s the key
Your adventure for today, what do you do
Between the horns of the day

I believe
My shirt is wearing thin and change is what I believe in

When I was young and give and take, and foolish said my fool awake
When I was young and fever fell, my spirit I will not tell
You’re on your honor, on your honor

Trust in your calling, make sure your calling’s true
Think of others, the others think of you
Silly rule, golden words make practice, practice makes perfect
Perfect is a fault, and fault lines change

I believe
My humor’s wearing thin and change is what I believe in
I believe
My shirt is wearing thin and change is what I believe in

When I was young and full of grace, and spirited a rattlesnake
When I was young and fever fell, my spirit I will not tell
You’re on your honor, on your honor

I believe in example, I believe my throat hurts
Example is the checker to the key

I believe
My humor’s wearing thin and I believe the poles are shifting
I believe
My shirt is wearing thin and change is what I believe in

 


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