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Jurrjens remains on track for a spot

Jurrjens remains on track for a spot

VIERA, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens might not have exactly put the nail in the coffin on Saturday, but the young right-hander gave further reason to believe he'll start this season in the Braves' starting rotation.

While allowing four earned runs and 10 hits in five innings in a 4-1 loss to the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium, Jurrjens didn't provide a great statistical impression. But considering most of the damage came in a three-run sixth, he did enough to once again impress Braves manager Bobby Cox.

"He was great the first five [innings]," Cox said. "I think he got a little bit tired. He says he didn't. But it looked like it."

Jurrjens surrendered seven singles and just one run through the first five innings. But the sixth inning started with consecutive singles by Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson. When he followed an Austin Kearns two-run double by walking Rob Mackowiak, the Braves' 22-year-old right-hander found his day complete.

"I wanted to have a [perfect] inning, and just put too much pressure on myself," said Jurrjens, who says his fastball was flat because he was rushing his delivery toward the plate.

After Jurrjens completed his outing, closer Rafael Soriano completed a scoreless seventh inning with two strikeouts and a slider that provided further indication that his elbow isn't bothering him. Top setup man Peter Moylan issued a leadoff walk in the eighth inning, and then escaped unscathed with two ground balls and a strikeout.

Moylan has surrendered just two hits and no earned runs in his 6 2/3 innings this spring. As for Manny Acosta, the Braves other primary setup man, he hasn't allowed a run in his past four appearances.

Soriano, Moylan and Acosta have provided Cox plenty of confidence in the makeup of his bullpen.

"Those three are throwing lights out," Cox said.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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