GreenJackets' bullpen handling heavy workload

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The Augusta GreenJackets rotation has received the bulk of attention through the first 17 games and rightly so. Three starters have an ERA below 2.00, while a fourth is just above that number.

Second baseman Travious Relaford was sent up to Double-A Richmond to fill a roster spot after an injury.  FILE/JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN
FILE/JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN
Second baseman Travious Relaford was sent up to Double-A Richmond to fill a roster spot after an injury.

But the GreenJackets’ bullpen has been equally impressive in picking up the team in other areas.

The Augusta relievers have a 3.20 ERA, which seems pedestrian for a bullpen until one realizes the pressure they have faced in the first few weeks.

Eleven of the team’s 17 games have been decided by three runs or less. Also, the GreenJackets have dealt with two doubleheaders, a 14-inning game, a 13-inning game and an 11-inning game over that span.

“Our starters have done a nice job getting us to the fifth or sixth inning pretty much every time out, but our bullpen has pretty much been amazing,” GreenJackets manager Mike Goff said. “That’s a lot of work on your bullpen early on, and those guys have been nails.”

Stephen Johnson, the Giants’ sixth-round pick last year and 21st-ranked prospect by Baseball America, has yet to allow a run in 10 innings, giving up just two hits with five walks and nine strikeouts. Johnson has flashed a dynamic fastball in the high-90s while pairing it with a sweeping curveball in the high-70s. His fastball was ranked as the best in the Giants draft class.

Tyler Mizenko has yet to allow a run in eight innings. The closer has 10 strikeouts and five saves.

Derek Law has been a workhorse for the bullpen, allowing one run in 12⅓ innings. He has 17 strikeouts and five walks.

Brandon Farley and Mason McVay have also been reliable in extended innings. McVay has 13 strikeouts in 11⅓ innings while allowing three runs.

The bullpen allowed five runs in 4⅔ innings in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader against Kannapolis, one of the first games this season where it let the game get away.

“Our focus wasn’t there, and I think that’s the first time all season long that’s happened to our bullpen, so I’m not too concerned,” Goff said. “I think they’ll be fine.”

ONE CONSTANT: Although the GreenJackets have struggled offensively, one hitter has remained a constant source for driving in runs.

Shortstop Matt Duffy is the only player on the team with at least 30 plate appearances to have a batting average above .300.

Duffy’s .303 mark and .390 on-base percentage have been a boost to a team fighting for every run.

The 2012 18th-round pick out of Long Beach State has nearly twice as many RBI as the next highest player with 12, and he also leads the team in walks with 10.

“I feel pretty good,” Duffy said. “I’m just trying to see the ball as big as I possibly can, not trying to do too much. Honestly, as simple as it sounds, that’s pretty much it. I’m just trying to see the ball as big as I can.”

Duffy’s defense has also been reliable at shortstop, showing a strong arm and quick release on balls in the hole, and good lateral range to both sides.

CALLED UP: Infielder Travious Relaford was assigned to Double-A Richmond on Sunday in a move that fills a roster spot in a pinch.

Relaford was called up to the Flying Squirrels to replace Skyler Stromsmoe, who broke his thumb and was placed on the disabled list.

In a corresponding move for Augusta, infielder Shayne Houck was activated from the disabled list. Houck played in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader as designated hitter, going 0 for 3.


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