Giants' top pick will rejoin GreenJackets' rotation

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Augusta pitcher Zack Wheeler will return to the starting rotation this week, GreenJackets manager Dave Machemer confirmed Monday.

"We're trying to build his arm back up, and we want him to go into the three- and four-inning range," Machemer said. "There will still be a pitch limit, but we decided it would be better to let him start than try to work him in later in a game."

The Giants have been cautious with their 2009 first-round draft pick, allowing him only one- and two-inning appearances out of the bullpen since coming off the disabled list July 7. Wheeler made seven starts for the GreenJackets in April and May before he was placed on the disabled list with a cracked fingernail on the middle finger of his throwing hand.

Wheeler's start will come on the road, either Friday or Saturday against the Rome Braves.

"The idea is to get him stronger by the end of the year, but we don't want him to get hurt again," Machemer said. "He's ready (to start) now."

Wheeler pitched Saturday night. He was scheduled to go three innings but lasted only 1 1/3 before his fourth walk came with the bases loaded.

Wheeler's velocity, which made him a top prospect when the Giants drafted him out of high school last year, has remained in the 95 to 97 mph range during his time as a reliever, according to scouts.

The 20-year-old right-hander didn't get a decision in seven relief appearances but posted a 2.00 ERA out of the bullpen with nine strikeouts in nine innings.

As a starter, Wheeler is 1-3 with a 5.20 ERA in eight outings.

INJURIES: A short GreenJackets bench got shorter in Augusta's one-run victory Sunday evening.

First baseman Luke Anders and catcher Hector Sanchez both suffered hand injuries in Sunday's game. Right fielder Daniel Cook was already unavailable after leaving Saturday night's game with pain in the back of his shoulder.

Anders, who has been dealing with off-and-on wrist trouble throughout the season, was replaced by Tommy Joseph at first base in the ninth inning Sunday. Juan Martinez came in for Sanchez as the designated hitter in the eighth.

FIRST LESSON: Though he's still mainly a catcher, Joseph's duties at first base increased because of Anders' nagging wrist injury. The 2009 second-round draft pick started at first base for the injured Anders on Thursday night in addition to his ninth-inning appearance Sunday.

In Thursday's win, Joseph got a lesson in positioning from Machemer. With Charleston runners at second and third with one out in the second, Joseph positioned himself away from the bag at first base with right-handed batter Emerson Landoni at the plate. Machemer caught Joseph's attention from the dugout and signaled for him to move even farther off the line.

"I was only playing so far over because I knew what Emerson could do," Joseph said. "Mac yelled for me to move over even more, and I did a little. Then he yelled again, so I moved over a little more."

On the next pitch, Landoni hit a line-drive shot directly at Joseph. The surprised 19-year-old didn't have to take a step to catch the hard-hit shot for the second out of the inning.

"I was positioned perfectly," Joseph said. "That's how you play first base."

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Though the wins were hard to come by last week as the GreenJackets faced two of the top teams in the South Atlantic League, the longest homestand of the season at Lake Olmstead Stadium saw some late-inning heroics.

All three of Augusta's wins came thanks to offensive fireworks at clutch times.

Chris Dominguez hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 15th to win Wednesday night's game. On Friday, Ryan Cavan homered in the eighth to tie the game, then Nick Liles drew a bases-loaded, game-winning walk in the ninth.

On Sunday, Anders and Joseph combined for back-to-back homers in the sixth inning to make the difference in a 4-3 win.

"I don't think we feel like we're ever down," Liles said. "I think we all feel like we're capable of winning at any time. Lately, it just happens to be that when we win, it comes late in the game."

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