In the world of affiliated minor league baseball, Augusta GreenJackets manager Lipso Nava knows his task is to develop the players sent to him and prepare them for the next level.
When it comes to speedy prospects Kelby Tomlinson and Shawn Payne, the training includes giving them a bit of freedom on the base paths.
“The only way to develop good base stealers is to let them succeed and fail on their own,” Nava said. “Those two have the green light (to steal a base) most of the time. Sometimes I have to hold them back, depending on the situation. But those guys so far have done a good job.”
Tomlinson and Payne are among the South Atlantic League’s leaders in steals. Tomlinson entered the week tied for 10th with 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. Payne ranked ninth and was 14 for 14.
Tomlinson said the success is the product of repetition and experience.
“That just comes with playing games. I try to play as many games as I can every year, and the more times you do it, the more comfortable you’re going to get with it,” he said. “A lot of it just comes with experience and just being in those situations.”
Both speedsters, who regularly bat in the top third of the lineup, manage to get on base with regularity. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in on base percentage for Augusta. Payne (.418) entered the week ninth in the league.
STRANDED: Despite the ability of two quality base runners to reach base consistently, the GreenJackets have struggled to turn the opportunities into runs and wins. The team once again split a four-game series last week and remained just under the .500 mark, an increasingly intangible and frustrating barrier for Nava.
“It’s a matter of consistency. We’re trying to play at .500 right now and a lot of times we get close to that goal but don’t quite get there,” he said. “We need to be more consistent over the course of the entire series, and right now our problem has been hitting with runners in scoring position. We haven’t had that consistent guy to drive in those runs.”
Though Payne and Tomlinson rank among the league’s top hitters in getting on base, the team is hitting just .242 with runners on base, which ranks 12th in the 14-team league.
MORE SPEED: The GreenJackets added another base-running threat Monday when outfielder Jesus Galindo was sent to Augusta from extended spring training in Arizona.
The switch-hitting Venezuelan led the short-season Northwest League with 47 stolen bases in 62 games a year ago. He previously stole 65 bases in two seasons of Dominican Summer League ball.
Galindo took the roster spot of struggling outfielder Michael Mergenthaler, who was placed on the disabled list after going 1 for 14 over his past five games.
ON MY MIND: The team’s current all-Georgia road trip took the players on a 322-mile journey from Savannah to Rome late Sunday into early Monday morning. After splitting the four-game series in Savannah, the GreenJackets will play three with Rome.
The team will return to Lake Olmstead Stadium for a four-game series with Savannah starting Thursday.
ALUMNUS CHECK: Former GreenJacket Nick Noonan, the starting second baseman for the 2008 South Atlantic League championship team, has worked his way up to the Triple-A level and broke a franchise record Sunday.
The 23-year-old shortstop tallied eight RBI in Fresno’s 11-5 win over Round Rock. Noonan went 4 for 5 with two home runs in the road game. He singled in two runs in the first, hit a two-run homer in the third and added a grand slam in the sixth.