Posted July 23, 2014 05:53 pm

GreenJackets Gameday: Savannah's Robert Whalen vs. Augusta's Joan Gregorio

Wednesday, July 23 - 7 p.m.


Savannah Sand Gnats (63-33)

RHP Robert Whalen (2014 A: 20 IP, 1.80 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 26.3 K%, 8.8 BB%, .255 BABIP)


Augusta GreenJackets (48-52)

RHP Joan Gregorio (2014 A: 25 IP, 3.24 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 27.7 K%, 8.9 BB%, .242 BABIP)


After losing three of four at Charleston, Augusta returns home for a week-long homestand against two of the toughest teams in the South Atlantic League.


The homestand starts with three games against Savannah, which won the Southern Division's first-half title by 4.5 games at 44-22. The Sand Gnats are 19-11 in the second half and in second place in the South behind Asheville's 26-6.


After Savannah, the GreenJackets will play host to Greensboro over four games. The Grasshoppers finished the first half as the North champions at 44-26 and are tied for the second-half lead at 21-11.


The GreenJackets continue to hover a few games under .500, which has been the case for most of the season. They are 14-18 in the second half, 12 games behind Asheville.


Joan Gregorio had perhaps the most Gregorio-like start of his life last time out against Kannapolis, allowing one run and striking out seven in 5.1 innings. The lanky right-hander pumped fastballs with good velo at 92-95, t96. His command with the pitch was excellent.


Despite a solid amount of swinging strikes and overall success, Gregorio struggled with command and feel of his secondary pitches. His slider came and went by feel. He threw several plus offerings with hard, downward bite. He threw several slurvy pitches with three-quarters shape. The changeup remained nothing more than show-me.


Gregorio can more than get by in the SAL with his fastball and occasional plus slider. He doesn't have to worry about lasting eight innings, either. But no further development with the command of his secondaries since the beginning of last season will hinder his prospect status.


Robert Whalen was impressive in his start against Augusta in April, allowing one unearned run on two hits and no walks with six strikeouts in five innings. He made just two more starts before disappearing to the DL, and he emerged with the GCL Mets earlier this month. He made three starts in Florida and is returning to the Sand Gnats rotation for his first start for the team since May 1.


Whalen is a physically maxed right-hander drafted in the 12th round in 2012 out of a Florida high school. He grew up in the Northeast as a Mets fan. He has had dead arm issues in the past, which pushed his draft stock down after coming out firing in the mid-90s his senior year of high school. Whalen adds a downward-breaking curveball as his better secondary and a slider.


Game notes:

***After hitting a lull, Augusta's Tyler Horan is 6 for his past 12 with a double, homer, five RBI and a stolen base. Before the past three games, Horan had just one hit in his previous 16 at-bats.


***Augusta's Ty Ross has climbed to a season-high .247 batting average, fourth among current GreenJackets. Ross snapped a seven-game hitting streak July 17 but returned with a current four-game streak. Over that span, he has two doubles, a walk and four RBI.


***Over the road trip, Augusta placed LHP Christian Jones on the disabled list and assigned RHP Nick Vander Tuig back to the rotation. RHP Michael Connolly, who is on Augusta's DL, was assigned to the AZL for rehab.


***Augusta received C Kleiber Rivas and placed him on the team's DL. Rivas has five games of stateside experience in the AZL after two seasons in the DSL.


Augusta lineup:

Chris Lofton, cf

Ryder Jones, dh

Ty Ross, c

Tyler Horan, rf

Jeremy Sy, 2b

Rafael Rodriguez, lf

Ryan Jones, 3b

Craig Massoni, 1b

Rando Moreno, ss

Joan Gregorio, sp


Savannah lineup:

Patrick Biondi, lf

Champ Stuart, cf

Dominic Smith, 1b

Matt Oberste, dh

Cole Frenzel, 3b

Victor Cruzado, rf

Colton Plaia, c

Yeixon Ruiz, ss

Jonathan Johnson, 2b

Robert Whalen, sp