Record-breaking temperatures in Augusta over the weekend had an impact on the Augusta GreenJackets’ longest homestand of the season.
While the team hit the diamond early for extra work through much of April and May, the added infield work, base-running practice and fielding drills were scaled back when the heat arrived.
“We’re being cautious with the amount of work we’ll do,” manager Lipso Nava said. “We want to make sure they don’t get exposed to the heat too much and they stay hydrated the whole day and the night before.”
Many of the young prospects are playing their first full season of professional baseball and, now 81 games into a 140-game season, they’ve played more games in the past three months than they ever had in a single high school or college season.
The team had yet to play a game with the temperature over 90 degrees entering the current homestand, but Thursday’s first pitch came with the temperature at 100 degrees. Friday’s game started at 103, and Saturday capped the weekend with a 105-degree first pitch.
“You’ve got to work smart,” designated hitter Wes Hodges said. “You’ve got to get your work in and get out, because you can really wear yourself out in this kind of weather. You want to shorten your reps and save your bullets for the game.”
CLOSE CALLS: Five of the GreenJackets’ first eight games after the All-Star break saw the team win by one run. Augusta leads the South Atlantic League with 20 one-run wins.
Hodges said the slim victories can be easy on the legs but still tiring.
“They’re quick so it saves you energy physically, but it can be mentally draining,” he said. “I think it just says a lot about the character of this team that we can win these close ones.”
The exception to the short outings came Thursday when the GreenJackets played their longest game of the season. Augusta beat Asheville 6-5 in 12 innings in a game that lasted three hours and 56 minutes.
BACK ON BASE: Two potential leadoff hitters were unavailable last week. Jesus Galindo missed time with a wrist injury, while Carlos Willoughby entered his fourth week on the inactive list.
Nava said over the weekend that Galindo could be back as early as the end of the homestand, while Willoughby was activated Sunday.
Willoughby, a South Atlantic League All-Star last year, hasn’t put up similar numbers this season. The 23-year-old Colombian hit just .202 in the first half of the season and went .196 as a leadoff hitter.
RECOVERING: In his first start since earning the league’s pitcher of the week award, Adalberto Mejia had to leave the game Saturday after taking a line drive off his leg.
The 19-year-old lefty had allowed two earned runs on seven hits over five innings but had to be helped off the field on the first pitch of the sixth inning.
Nava said the ball caught Mejia just below the knee, and the injury shouldn’t prevent him from missing his next start.
FUNDAMENTALS: The GreenJackets entered Monday’s doubleheader leading the league in fewest errors committed with 82. The total includes a league record-breaking streak of nine consecutive games of error-free ball in May.
Asheville ranked second in the league with 84.
FEED YOUR FACE: The longest homestand of the season will wrap up today with an early Independence Day celebration. The GreenJackets will offer an all-you-can-eat picnic deal, which includes a ticket to the game and unlimited hamburgers, hot dogs and soft drinks for $21. The night’s festivities will also include a postgame fireworks show.