Walks, low run production hurt GreenJackets

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A new ballpark promotion allowed fans at Lake Olmstead Stadium free unlimited concessions with the price of admission Monday. Augusta GreenJackets manager Lipso Nava has spent the season’s first home­stand worried about other free passes.

Entering Monday’s play, Nava’s pitching staff led the South Atlantic League with 56 walks through 11 games. The problems seem to come from starters and relievers alike.

“When you’re missing locations, bad things are going to happen,” Nava said. “(Pitching coach Mike Caldwell) already talked to the guys.”

Walks became the undoing of starter Kyle Crick in Saturday’s game. The 49th overall pick in last year’s draft allowed just one hit over three shutout innings against Savannah, but he walked four of five batters in a six-run fourth that made the difference in the 6-0 loss.

The same location problems hindered Adalberto Mejia and Steven Neff on Fri­­day, leading to eight walks over the first five innings. The GreenJackets couldn’t dig themselves out of the resulting 7-0 deficit.

“We have to keep making adjustments, keep pounding the zone earlier in the count and go to the second-best pitch late in the count,” Nava said. “We haven’t been able to do that, so it’s going to continue to be addressed. Things have to turn around.”

NO SUPPORT: The pitching problems have been compounded by Augusta’s lack of run support, which resulted in just one run over the final three games of a four-game series with Savannah.

The team built a 30-inning scoreless streak before an error and a Jose Cuevas single scored Brett Krill on Sunday for the weekend’s lone GreenJackets run.

“It can get a little frustrating, but we do know it’s a long season,” shortstop Kelby Tomlinson said. “We got our hits. We got as many hits as they did; we just didn’t get them at the right time. That’s what it comes down to. So it’s a little frustrating that we didn’t get the hits at the time we needed a big hit. We’d ground into a double play or something like that. When we didn’t really need the hit, we got one.”

The lack of clutch hitting produced the first back-to-back shutouts at Lake Olm­stead Stadium in at least five years.

HELP COMING: The lineup could get a boost when Shawn Payne comes off the disabled list, possibly as early as this week.

The 25-year-old outfielder from Stone Mountain, Ga., led the team in hitting before dislocating the middle finger on his right hand while sliding back into first base on the final game of the season-opening road trip.

“I knew something was wrong right away,” he said. “It didn’t feel right. I knew it wasn’t just jammed.”

Payne was placed on the seven-day disabled list the day Augusta arrived in town for Thursday’s home opener. He took swings in the batting cage for the first time Sunday afternoon.

“It’s good to see him swinging the bat, but we have to be cautious. We don’t want to rush him,” Nava said. “The plan is to get him healthier and back to playing everyday.”

LOOSENING UP: Nava said Mejia, who cut his start short in the third inning Friday with tightness in his elbow, is not expected to miss his next start.

Clayton Blackburn will start tonight’s game and fellow right-hander Chris Marlowe will take the mound in the last game of the homestand.

Mejia is scheduled to start the first game of a road trip in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday.

NEW ADDITION: Hitting coach Nestor Rojas left Au­gus­ta last week to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

He arrived in Arizona in time to see the birth of his daughter, Rotsen.

Rojas returned to Augusta Monday.

ONLINE: GreenJackets radio play-by-play broadcaster Eric Little has joined with two other minor
league broadcasters to start a minor league baseball podcast.

Little, Altoona Curve director of communications Mike Passanisi and Trenton Thun­der director of broadcasting Jay Burnham started the weekly Minor League Report podcast last week.

Episodes are available for free on iTunes and at TheMinorLeagueReport.com.


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