Posted June 21, 2014 05:09 pm

GreenJackets Gameday: Asheville's Alex Balog vs. Augusta's Joan Gregorio

Saturday, June 21 - 7 p.m.


Asheville Tourists (43-28)

RHP Alex Balog (2014 A: 79.2 IP, 3.95 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 16 K%, 6.3 BB%, .321 BABIP)


Augusta GreenJackets (34-36)

RHP Joan Gregorio (2014 A+: 22.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 25.5 K%, 12.3 BB%, .391 BABIP; 2014 A: 3 IP, K)


Old friend Gregorio is back and will make his first Lake Olmstead appearance since Sept. 1, 2013, when he threw three scoreless innings with four strikeouts, also against Asheville. His last start as a GreenJacket came Aug. 1, 2013, against Charleston.


Gregorio got knocked around for a few outings with Advanced-A San Jose to begin this season and suffered differing ailments. This was after struggling down the stretch for Augusta in 2013 and sitting a month with an oblique injury.


The Giants are starting Gregorio over this season with Augusta to begin the second half. He is sliding into the rotation spot of Matt Lujan, who was assigned to San Jose on Friday. It's unknown how long Gregorio will be with the GreenJackets. I wrote the following after he threw seven hitless innings with 10 strikeouts against Lakewood on July 18, 2013:


"The best pitching performance I've personally seen this season now belongs to Joan Gregorio.


Gregorio threw seven no-hit innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts. The strikeout total ties a career high previously set April 17 against Lexington. He induced 19 swinging strikes, the highest total at Lake Olmstead Stadium this season.


Gregorio was popping the mitt all night with a hard fastball that touched mid-90s. He was able to work up in the zone at times with two strikes, and he commanded the pitch well, especially in the final innings. His changeup induced a good amount of swinging strikes, flashing very good fade and arm action. His arm action on the pitch tends to vary because of his long delivery, but it was good in this start.


The breaking ball was also good, showing a solid two-plane and late bite on left-handed batters. He didn't bring it out as much against such a lefty-heavy lineup, but what he did show was good, as it tends to be.


Gregorio's ability to work this effectively against a lineup full of left-handed batters is a tremendous sign. He has previously worked well with a fastball/breaking ball combination against right-handed batters, but the way he brought out the changeup in force against this Lakewood lineup was impressive. Not only was this the best start I've seen this season, it impressed me the most for one particular pitcher."


Balog gave up one run on six hits over seven innings against the GreenJackets on April 25. He only struck out one. I wrote the following after his start:


"Balog was basically as advertised. He's tall and long, he throws a hard fastball with sink that helped generate 12 ground balls, and his secondaries aren't strikeout-worthy right now.


Balog nearly eliminated the crouch before driving forward that was present in his college days. Now, he's more deliberate at that point, and you can tell he has worked to simplify his motion. The torque and rotation are still there, and he doesn't take full advantage of his length and hard fastball, but he did a good job of generating ground balls against Augusta.


Balog's breaking ball has average potential, showing tight spin and good bite at times. It can stay loose and slurvy at times, too. His changeup has potential based on his arm action and length, but it's firm and inconsistent right now."


GreenJackets infielder John Polonius is walking around with a cast on his right arm after leaving Thursday's game. He stayed on the ground after stealing a base, but he stayed in for the rest of the inning and was replaced after the frame. He was placed on the disabled list Saturday.


The GreenJackets already had one open roster spot after the promotion of Lujan, so that gave them two free spots. One went to catcher Gabriel Cormier, who was activated from the disabled list after sitting on it for the entire first half. The other spot went to reliever Steven Messner, who was also activated from the disabled list.